US rider Allison Mrugal makes WorldTour leap at La Vuelta Femenina with Sopela

 Allison Mrugal won her first European race in April 2023 after signing with Sopela Women's Team
Allison Mrugal won her first European race in April 2023 after signing with Sopela Women's Team

This time one year ago Allison Mrugal rode the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico with the amateur-level Amy D. Foundation team and was happy with a pair of top 15s across the five-day UCI 2.2 stage race. Now the 27-year-old US rider is part of the Continental-level Sopela Women’s Team and set to make her WorldTour stage race debut in La Vuelta Femenina by, May 1-7.

It has been a whirlwind of change across a few months for Mrugal, who has only been racing on the road for two full years. She moved to Europe and signed with a Spanish club team to start 2023, Kiwi Átlantico-Louriña. In early April she moved up to the Sopela squad, based in the Spanish Basque Country, and then won her first European race on the third day of the Lea-Artibai Txallengea, held in Berriatúa. It also the team’s first victory of the year, and they named her to the Vuelta squad.

Scroll to continue with content

“This has definitely been the hardest thing that I have ever consciously done,” Mrugal told Cyclingnews about her leap of faith to move to Europe and find a home with a Continental team. “I am feeling super grateful, of course happy, and now excited for more racing.”

Read more

La Vuelta Femenina contenders - The favourites in the hunt for the overall victory

La Vuelta Femenina, the women's Vuelta a España, to finish atop Lagos de Covadonga

Chloe Dygert makes long-awaited return to road racing at La Vuelta Femenina

Mrugal’s story is a bit fairytale so far, as small-town girl worked her way into the spotlight, beginning in the rolling countryside of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Mrugal’s parents are avid cyclists, and she got hooked on mountain biking as a senior in high school. She then raced off-road for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York, winning a silver medal at US Collegiate Cyclocross Nationals in 2018.


The experience ignited her passion to keep racing, so she accepted a scholarship to race as a graduate student for Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta ”to feed my cycling addiction.

“They had a large and talented road program, too, so when we gained a new coach in the legendary road racer and criterium queen, Tina Pic, I subconsciously became a roadie,” she said, riding the past two years with Classic Cycling, Cardinal Classic Cycling and at Gila with Amy D. Foundation.

Her moves off the bike, which she called “serendipitous”, gained momentum after last year’s Gila to try racing in Europe and find bigger opportunities.

“This year’s success was built on last year’s foundation which included racing many of the major races in the US, a few kermesses in Belgium, and the Ras na mBan in Ireland with Cardinal Classic Cycling. With Amy D, I gained a lot of confidence because I really enjoyed big stage racing and the idea of working in a professional team,” Mrugal explained.


“This led me to continue seeking opportunities to reach the next level, even cold-emailing a few sports management agencies that I found on Instagram asking for advice. One of these managers actually responded suggesting that I visit Belgium to race kermesses.”

She said Belgian pro Eleanor Wiseman, who had spent time in the US to study and race previously, provided the valuable feedback she needed to understand race structure and gain confidence. She also had a long, Oscar-awards-like list of friends and former teammates to thank for giving her a push, including Cardinal Classic Cycling's Merrill Thierman and fellow US rider Barry Miller, who races for a team in Portugal.

“Racing abroad for the first time in both Belgium and Ireland gave me some confidence and asked me to stay open-minded. I am fortunate that this year I have had the opportunity to return to Europe, chase the dream, and meet some really wonderful people.”

First victory and bigger goals

It all came together with Sopela in April for her first European victory, which she earned by getting a 10-rider break across hilly terrain and sprinting long distance for the career-defining accomplishment. She also finished fifth in the time trial, just behind teammate Nahia Imaz, and then rode alongside Alice Coutinho for another top 10, the US rider in seventh.


“It was my first race with my new team and my first time really meeting all of my teammates and the director, so we were all excited to say the least. I was psyched to have their support and the opportunity to go for it. It was very cool that it worked out,” she told Cyclingnews.

“It was really cool to have a stage win come together. In the finish, I made a jump on my two break away companions before the final couple of turns and it was enough for the win.”

After the Vuelta España Femenina. Mrugal will remain in Spain to race 1.Pro Navarra Women’s Elite (May 10), WorldTour stage race Itzulia Women (May 12-14) and Durango-Durango (May 16).

“With the win and my new team, my goals are still the same. I am really fortunate to be on a team that supports me in this way and will help me develop in the rider I believe I can be,” said Mrugal, who is still learning to speak Spanish.

“I aim to be on a World Tour team at the end of 2023 so I am learning a lot. I figure if I shoot for the moon and I don’t make it, then I will at least be among the stars, as the saying goes. It is important for me to continue doing everything that goes into improving fitness, reading races, and being a good person day-to-day.”