Fresh off its training camp, the TIBCO/To The Top took its first win of the season at the Snelling Road Race this weekend on a solo move by Erinne Willock. A good start for the second-year UCI team.
Podiuminsight made the trip down to Carpinteria to meet the team last week.
The goal this year is simple: everything. “We’re targeting the very big stage races. Our goal is to win the NRC team overall. We’re really targeting all the major stage races, Redlands, Gila, Joe Martin, Nature Valley, Cascade, and of course Nationals. And then the important crits as well.” explained Directeur Sportif Lisa Hunt.
“We want to win all of them.” she added with a smile when asked if any races were more targeted than others.
After operating and directing her own teams both ValueAct Capital and Team Vera Bradley Foundation in the past years, Hunt has signed on to manage and direct the team in North America.
She is excited about her new role. “It feels good, I’m really excited. I get to concentrate on directing and working with the riders and I love Linda, she and I have know each other for years, I use to race against her, and my team when I was a director used to race against hers.”
Hunt used to race against TIBCO/To The Top Founder and Managing Director Linda Jackson in the 90s. “She was much better, believe me, she was always much better, I always admired her.” replied Hunt with a laugh when asked who was better.
“Running a team on my own without another director is very hard.” Hun added. “Linda has a top notch organization, she’s so good at the business part of it, she’s a great leader. She has very very high expectations for the riders and the staff, sponsors, everything, she recognizes how important it is, we wouldn’t be here without our sponsors and it is a we. These girls here at camp, you can already see the team bonding.”
Changes. Hunt is not the only change this year, with 9 new riders making up the 14-rider roster.
“The great thing is that I’ve known so many of these women and I’ve always wanted the opportunity to work with them and it’s a great mix of riders and it’s going to be one of those years where we have some girls in Europe early on but we have an incredibly strong team that’s here early on.” Hunt said.
Returning to the team are Meredith Miller, Joanne Kiesanowski, Samantha Schneider, Megan Guarnier and Emma Mackie. New riders to the team are Carmen Small, Alison Powers, Serena Sheridan and the Canadians Tara Whitten, Joelle Numainville and Willock. Also joining the squad are neo-pros “up and coming sprinter “ Kendall Ryan, “former roller derby queen” Jennifer Wheeler who was fifth at Nationals and Carlee Taylor who just won the U23 Australian Nationals.
An interesting mix of skills and talent with both strong sprinters and stage racers. “Some of our strong stage racers can also do sprints and vice versa our sprinters can do stage racers. Our goal is to have representation at all of the major NRC races.”
With so many new riders, creating a bond becomes even more important at training camp and it seems to have happened almost immediately. “You know it’s funny, I feel like it happened. We stayed in San Luis Obispo and I tried to do room assignments where it was mix the old with the new and girls were just having a great time, and then I switched it up here.” Hunt smiled.
Once again, TIBCO will send a team to race in Europe twice this year, in early spring and late summer. Dutchwoman Angela van Smoorenburg will take over primary directing duties in Europe, working alongside Chris Georgas, who will continue to manage the team’s operations in Europe.
The goal is to garner experience and UCI points for the riders on the squad who are aiming for the 2012 Olympic Games. And there is also the possibility of racing for the National squad when TIBCO is not at a race.
The spring trip starts right after the Redlands Bicycle Classic. “Everyone comes back from Europe late April in time for Gila, Joe Martin, all the major races, after Joe Martin there’s Gatineau, then the whole swing on the east coast with Philly, and Arlington, Nature Valley and Nationals. Everyone is here through Cascade really and then there will be a team going back over to Europe.”
How healthy is the women’s peloton right now? Hunt has seen it both from the racer and the directeur sportif side. Through a few teams disappeared at the end of the 2010 season including her own, Hunt feels that “with the lost of teams come opportunities, and I feel like there teams out there.”
And she thinks that the state of the races seemed to be settling down. “I guess the hardest thing is when teams go into planning for their race season, everything is on the calendar and then all of sudden it gets pulled off the calendar. Who knows what is going to happen with Altoona. And we’re very disappointed that Battenkill is no longer on the NRC.”
We all hope that all the women’s race are successful and continue to support the sport for many years.
Jackson is also continuing on her mission to develop cycling with a juniors and a development squad. Former professional cyclist Felicia Gomez is taking over the directing duties for the Team TIBCO Juniors squad. Gomez was a professional cyclist for five years with Webcor and Aarons Pro Cycling, where she was a teammate of Meredith Miller.
TIBCO/To The Top will field a squad at the MERCO Credit Union Cycling Classic next week in Northern California.
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