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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Pro bikes, October 4, 2007

Mara Abbott's Webcor Orbea Orca Special Edition

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Photo ©: Justin Slarks/Orbea USA

Stars and Stripes for the nation's best

By James Huang

Current US Elite Women's Road Champion Mara Abbott
Photo ©: Whitman College
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Webcor team sponsors got together
Photo ©: Karen Webster
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The Stars and Stripes paint job
Photo ©: Justin Slarks
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There's no debating
Photo ©: Justin Slarks
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Orbea's new Orca offers plenty of 'canvas'
Photo ©: Justin Slarks
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Abbott's special bike wears standard Dura-Ace kit
Photo ©: Justin Slarks
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First-year Webcor rider Mara Abbott has had a fairy tale season in 2007. In only two short years of racing, Abbott has scored four collegiate US national championships, the U23 time trial championship, the overall victory at this year's Tour of the Gila stage race, and podium finishes at the Redlands Classic, Montreal World Cup and the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Most recently, Abbott surprised even herself by out sprinting Kristin Armstrong to the line to land the 2007 US National Elite Women's Road Championship.

With those sorts of results, one would expect Abbott to be a well-seasoned cyclist with years of racing under her belt, but surprisingly, that couldn't be further from the truth. Abbott has been a competitive freestyle distance swimmer since the age of nine, and continues to compete on the collegiate level for Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington where she is currently finishing out her senior year.

Abbott began road racing only during her freshman year (mostly on a whim), but her meteoric rise up the ranks and quick collection of race wins and podium finishes earned her a trip to a women's training camp at the United States Olympic training center in Colorado Springs and a first-time meeting with her now-coach Michael Engleman.

"She wasn't as good a swimmer as she is a cyclist, but she's always felt like an athlete," said Engleman. "She's always had that drive, and that was pretty easy to see the first time I saw her at [training] camp. The thing is, she wanted to be a swimmer; she didn't want to be a cyclist. But boy, you could tell that she was a cyclist."

"She and I are a perfect mix, because I don't push; I offer, and that's kind of what she likes," continued Engleman. "But once she's on her mission, she's off, and I think that's what we're starting to see now. She doesn't make excuses for herself, and she works super hard, and that's what you want to see in an athlete."

In spite of her inherent gifts, however, cycling is not a sport that is typically won purely on physical talent alone. According to Engleman, "The first time I you ever see her you could see she was a little dynamo. The bigger thing, though, is that she just wanted to know stuff. She's frustrated with the things she doesn't know. Some of it is just bike handling. She can stay in the top twenty [right now], but she's fighting to do it. She fights to be in there, she doesn't really want to give ground to anyone."

With such enormous potential on hand with Abbott, part of Engleman's biggest struggle is focusing that drive and energy in a more directed and purposeful manner. "She's got all of the tools," he said. "Probably the one tool that's been the most difficult for an athlete, what makes them good, is also what has the potential to make things on them which is that they're so driven. She gets really disappointed in herself, she's hard on herself, and I think she's going to have to learn when to let off. Mara's thing is, she's so full of energy; she does not like to go slow. I was talking with Bob Roll about her the other day, and he said, 'She reminds me of [Greg] LeMond. He went out the door, he's in the 12, and he's going 27mph, and Mara's the same way.' It's been a battle for her and I just to make her go easy. She was really frustrated with me two weeks before worlds. She was so mad at me because I made her ride easy for a week and she felt like crap. But then I put here behind the motor for two days and she was flying. And then she started to get the whole, 'you've got to go easy' thing. And to be honest, that was the first full week all year she's had an easy week."

Unfortunately, the world championships didn't quite go as well as some had hoped. Abbott succeeded to make the second break, but wasn't able to bridge up to the first group having expended too much energy early on in the day. However, only the most harshly critical can deem that day as anything remotely approaching a 'disappointment'; for her to qualify at all (and do relatively well) at such an early stage in her career would be viewed as a monumental achievement in nearly anyone else's eye.

At the very least, though, it gives the rest of the field a teaser of what's to come, and Engleman tries to keep all of that in perspective. "I've always told her, you're going to have moments where it's not going to go well, and you're going to have to learn to deal with them. She really just needs to keep evolving. She's going to go to a good program next year, and I think what's going to happen is that she'll be in the right situation where someone's going to say, 'Ok, you're here, you're watching me, this is what I want you to do.' The indication for next year is to learn the tactics, learn to race, learn when to be patient, and why you need to be patient. Patience is not her biggest virtue, but again, that's the driven part. She's one of the most amazing athletes I've ever seen."

To cap off her stellar season, Webcor team sponsors joined forces to create a 'graduation present' of sorts for their breakout star. Spec-wise, the machine is fairly standard, consisting of Abbott's usual Orca frameset, Dura-Ace component group, and Easton EC90 SLX carbon wheelset and cockpit components. The real draw, however, is its stunning red, white, and blue paint job, complete with 'Mara Abbott' clear coated over on the top tube.

Sadly, Abbott won't get to keep the one-off ride as she will be departing Webcor for an as-yet unnamed destination (Engleman says she received "five to seven really good offers"), but it's still flattering nonetheless that such a thing was created solely in her honor in the first place. Don't worry, Mara, we're sure there will be another such machine on its way to you in the future… maybe next time with rainbow stripes?


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Whitman College

Images by Karen Webster

Images by Justin Slarks/Orbea USA

Images by Karen Webster

Full specification

Frame: Orbea Orca, 51cm
Fork: Orbea Orca

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.65m (5' 5"); Weight: 54.4kg (120lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 460mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 490mm
Top tube length: 535mm (horizontal)
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 705mm
Saddle nose tip to C of bars: 503mm
C of front hub to top of bars: 532mm

Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace SM-FC7800 with Enduro hybrid ceramic cartridge bearings
Shimano Dura-Ace FC7800, 170mm, 53/39T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7801
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-7800-F
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-7800-SS
Front brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-7800
Rear brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-7800
Levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Dual Control ST-7800
Rear sprockets: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-7800, 12-25T


Wheelset: Easton EC90 SLX
Tyres: Schwalbe Stelvio tubular

Bars: Easton EC90 SLX, 40cm (c-c)
Stem: Easton EA90, 100mm x -10°
Headset: FSA Orbit integrated
Tape/grip: Orbea Cork

Pedals:Speedplay Zero
Seat post: Easton EC90 Zero
Saddle: fi'zi:k Aliante Team
Bottle cages: Blackburn Camber CF
Computer: none

Total bike weight: 6.82kg (15.03lb)