A new women’s team is emerging from the structure established by the ValueAct Capital Women’s Pro Cycling Team, led by Team Director Lisa Hunt aka The Huntress. Team VBF will be racing their bikes to win races and raise funds for breast cancer research, and to also spread the word about cycling.
“It’s almost a triple mission, we want win races, we want to get more women on bikes and importantly we want to raise awareness for breast cancer research.” said Hunt about the team’s mission for the next season.
Continued support from Specialized will allow riders to do the first two goals. A partnership with the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer has become the catalyst for the final.
“We were really excited, “ said Hunt when the opportunity to partner with the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer came about, “and we wanted to figure out a way where we could benefit them and how we could act as their ambassadors to help raise awareness of the research and the importance of the research and the foundation.”
Hunt continued. “I think the important thing about sponsorship and bike racing is that you want to give back to the sport, you want to give back to the right person and breast cancer is an awful disease, we all want to find a cure.”
Win. Hunt answered when asked about Team VBF’s racing goals.
“I want to win the NRC overall both as a team and the individual classification. I think we can accomplish both. We do have lofty goals, I think we can accomplish them. I think that every rider on the team is committed to those goals and if we don’t win, we’re going to try our best. I know these girls are going to be wanting to win everything.”
In order to do so, Hunt has put together what she calls a “well rounded team”.
“I think that our strengths in the last few years has been at stage races but where we’ve been weak has been in the single day and the criterium races. I needed to complement my stage racers with people that could be strong in crits, could finish races, could win stages and win overall. I needed to balance the team out.”
One rider that Hunt will be looking to to help achieve the goal is Alison Powers, the winner of the individual classification of the 2009 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar.
“She’s such a strong and great all around rider which she proved winning the NRC, it was almost a no brainer to take her on the team.” said Hunt about Powers. “Her passion for the sport, her commitment to the sport and the way she represents herself as a spokesperson was just tremendous and I was really excited to have her on the team.”
Beefing up the sprints. The lead sprinter will be Erica Allar who took home a stage win at Nature Valley while guest riding for ValueAct in 2009. “Having won the stage for us at Cannonfalls, she won the Clarendon Cup, she’s by far our lead sprinter.” said Hunt.
Helping out will be 2009 Canadian Road Champion Alison Testroete who was racing part-time this year and decided to re-commit one hundred percent to racing.
“I’ll be looking to her for a lot of the mid-race sprint points and gobbling up time bonuses and things like that at stage races. She’s also an outstanding breakaway rider.” said Hunt about Testroete.
Add to the mix neo-pro Lauren Hall who also guest-rode with Hunt last year at the Cascade Cycling Classic where “she was an incredible support person.” Hunt added. “She’s a really good crit rider, a sprinter. She’s going to be a critical leadout person at the crit for us.”
Leadership and radios. Returning from ValueAct, Robin Farina will be the captain on the road.
“She won’t be able to hear me if we don’t have any radios which will be good. She’s a great tactician on the road so she will be able to communicate things to the girls during a race.” said Hunt who added with a laugh “And she’s got a loud voice, she’ll probably have to use it if she doesn’t have a radio.”
Ahh the radio ban, let’s take a quick tangent to talk about that. Hunt is unclear about the impact of the UCI radio bans on the races this year. “I don’t know whether it’s going to be mandatory or the promoter’s option.”
She sees both pros and cons to the ban. “The pros are that it allows the riders to make some decisions themselves and take a few risks that they may not normally take when they have the comfort and the security of a radio. And they have to think, they have to be on their toes, they can’t let a breakaway go up the road thinking ‘oh yeah it will come back, we just have to wait’.”
For team managers in the car, it might make it more boring but on the other hand, more riders will come back to ask questions and get clarifications.
The cons can be simply stated as a safety concern as team manager have been able to communicate and relay upcoming road hazards to the riders. “That is something that needs to be taken into consideration and I’m hoping there is a remedy to that situation.”
But Hunt does think that radio ban will change the racing as far as breakaways making it to the line.
Back to the team. While Powers is the lead rider, the team has a lot of options starting with ace climber Leah Goldstein, who also was with ValueAct this year.
“Leah having won Gila before it’s one of her favorite races, the time trial plays really well to Alison’s strengths we’re going to be looking to win that race. We can potentially win several stages there, and the overall.”
The Team VBF roster also includes Kristin Sanders who was previously from ValueAct Capital, Oceania Games Time Trial Champion Alexis Rhodes, Carla Swart who has won a collegiate national champion in all cycling disciplines, former New Zealand National Team member Toni Bradshaw and newcomer Carrie Cash who along with Hall will join the pro ranks for the first time in 2010.
The team is targeting the premier races of the NRC. “I’d love to win Gila and Joe Martin, I want to win some crits and I’d love to be on the podium in Philly. Any of the high visibility races, the top end of the NRC races I’d love to win and a podium is critical as well. If we can’t win then we have to be on the podium and I know we can accomplish that.”
She would love to also win Redlands Bicycle Classic, the NRC season opener but “but it’s a tough race to win given the way it’s structured. The race isn’t decided by a time trial or a mountain stage.”
Health. Going back to the mission of getting more women riding their bikes, is that linked to professional cycling?
“They are in the standpoint that women looked to other cyclists and elite cyclists as some kind of role model in some way, shape or form. They are related in that way, supporting the sport whether it’s riding, racing or watching is so critical.” replied Hunt.
“With regards to getting more people on bikes, that’s what we like to do when we’re on the road. We have clinics, the girls in their hometowns, they encourage people to get on their bike. We try to encourage people not to be intimidated by cycling. We want to try to demystify the sport and make it a fun and enjoyable thing to do, good for you and for your health. You don’t have to be a bike racer to enjoy riding your bike and that’s where Specialized comes in, you can be as good as you want to be.” said Hunt who wants to stop the bad experiences that many women face at bike shops.
And as for the professional side. “I think that they health of the sport racing is better than it’s ever been. I think that the racing in the United States has proven that it’s stronger than it’s ever been and harder than it’s ever been.” said Hunt who has been directing for three and a half years after racing in the early ’90s.
Hunt knows that the team will be facing stiff competition in 2010 from many teams including TIBCO, Webcor Builders, Colavita/Baci p/b Cooking Light and Proman.
“When I say that we want to win every race or that I want to win the NRC, we have a lot of competition, the other teams out there have strong rosters and it’s going to be great season in terms of the competition and I’m really looking forwards to that.” concluded Hunt.
Team VBF will gather the first week of March for their training camp, probably in Tucson Arizona.
Team VBF 2010 Season Roster
- Erica Allar (USA)
- Toni Bradshaw (NZL)
- Carrie Cash (USA)
- Robin Farina (USA)
- Lauren Hall (USA)
- Leah Goldstein (ISR)
- Alison Powers (USA)
- Alex Rhodes (AUS)
- Kristin Sanders (USA)
- Carla Swart (RSA)
- Alison Testroete (CAN)