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GOLDEN, Colorado (VN) – Leigh Ann Ganzar (Hagens Berman-Supermint) has enjoyed a 2019 racing season of unbelievable highs, and a few lows.
Ganzar, the the 2018 U.S. criterium national champion, stood on a WorldTour podium, won her first UCI race, and tasted the brutal nature of European Classics races.
“If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I’d be standing on a WorldTour podium I probably would have laughed and said some mean words,” Ganzar told VeloNews.
Ganzar and her teammates on the Hagens Berman-Supermint squad also learned this summer that the team would not continue in 2020. Now 29, Ganzar said she plans to race in 2020, however she declined to divulge for which team.
As Ganzar prepares to pedal into her next challenge, she has proven herself to be an all-around rider who enjoys improving as a bike racer.
In late April, Ganzar and Hagnes Berman-Supermint traveled to Europe to race two of the toughest hilly classics: Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It was Ganzar’s first foray into European racing, and for the first time she dealt with the extra challenges that come from overseas racing: jet lag, foreign languages, and the different style of racing.
Ganzar finished both races. She learned the ebb and flow of the European peloton, as it fought through the narrow European roads.
“I [came back] motivated and it made me kind of want more chances,” Ganzar said. “We got two races, but it would have been great to do a longer block and really kind of let that experience and learning set in and maybe see some better results later.”
Then, in May, Ganzar hit a career high when she was third on the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California, a stop on the UCI women’s WorldTour. A week later, she won the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic.
“Tour of California was an amazing experience and we really came together as a team,” Ganzar said. “I think it really highlighted our kind of strength and versatility as a team and to be able to finish that off with a podium there. Then the following week winning Winston Salem, it was really, really special.”
Ganzar’s impressive 2019 marked the latest chapter in a four-year rapid rise in pro cycling. Ganzar was a top-tier runner throughout college, and after suffering an injury she found cycling. That was in 2015. The last four years have seen an exponential curve of improvement from year-to-year.
She raced for an amateur elite team called Wolfpack, which is based in Austin, Texas. In 2018 she turned heads by winning the criterium national title after attacking into a breakaway with Kelly Catlin and Jennifer Luebke on the penultimate lap.
A few days later Ganzar was eighth place in the pro road race.
Ganzar’s director, Tad Hamilton, sees Ganzar as a versatile rider who can excel in sprints, road races, and even time trials.
Hamilton points to her ride at the 2018 Colorado Classic as proof. In that race, Ganzar finished in the top-10 of the uphill Vail individual time trial, and did so on a road bike with clip-on bars. The majority of the top finishers had sleek aerodynamic time trial machines.
Hamilton saw this as proof that Ganzar wasn’t just a criterium racer, but a powerful rider with versatility.
The next step in Ganzar’s development, Hamilton says, may be learning to accept success.
“It’s interesting because she is cool as can be, but on the inside she’s anxious,” Tad Hamilton, sports director of Hagens Berman-Supermint, said. “These are new experiences for her. These are things that she has no idea what’s coming, what’s happening.“
It’s a good chance that more big victories are coming to Leigh Ann Ganzar.