During a short chat with Ina Yoko Teutenberg (HTC Highroad), at this year’s Merco Cycling Classic, Teutenberg identified Erinne Willock as a rider to watch. Teutenberg’s team mates Amber Neben and Evelyn Stevens also identified Willock as a dangerous threat at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Willock, one of three Canadians joining Team TIBCO-To the Top in 2011, has consistently been one of the strongest riders in North America. HTC Highroad marking her at races only confirms this fact.
Born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, Willock began racing in her teens. “I have been at this sport for a long time,” stated Willock. “I started in high school. There was a high school league where I grew up. We would have 400 kids show up to race 5 races every year. That was awesome. From there I did the BC Cup, which are our provincial races.”
Willock has mountain biking in her background. “Back in the 90’s there were a lot of mountain bikers around. I had great mentors like Alison Sydor, Leslie Tomlinson, and Roland Green. They were all living in my city. I made it to Jr. Worlds as a mountain biker in 1999. From there I did not ride mountain bikes any more. I went straight to road. As a junior I did both. Mountain bike nationals were on the west coast so I could go. I made the team to mountain biking. The road nationals were on the east coast and I could not get out there. I always knew that I was better suited to road.”
“I spent a few years doing national team stuff. I rode in Italy and France for year,” continued Willock. “I learned the ropes in Europe. I came back and rode for Verizon Wireless, then Team RONA, and Webcor for five years.”
When asked why she stayed with Webcor Builders Cycling Team so long, Willock commented, “I stayed with Webcor because it was a great team….a totally great team. It was professionally run and they supported us. They were one of the top teams in North America forever. There were people on the team that I could learn from like Christine Thorburn (former US National Time Trial Champion) and Karen Brems (Former UCI World Time Trial Champion). They were very supportive of me doing national team races.”
Willock has simply been a consistently strong rider. In 2004 she placed 3rd at the Canadian National Road Race Championships. She bettered that in 2005 with a 2nd place finish. In 2005, Willock won the “Best Young Rider” category and placed second overall in the Women’s Prestige Series. In 2006, she was the GC overall winner at both the Joe Martin Stage Race and the San Dimas Stage Race. In September 2007, despite struggling all season with a knee injury, she still managed to finish 16th in a lead group of riders at the World Championships held in Stuttgart, Germany. She placed even higher in 2009 finishing 7th at the World Road Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
Racing in the Olympics as a member of the Canadian team was a lifetime dream of Willock. “I came back to Webcor in 2008 knowing that they were going to get their UCI license,” stated Willock. “Their goal that year was to help us get to the Olympics. For a small team, we had four girls going to the Olympics that year. That was a huge accomplishment. Representing my country in the Olympics….is something I will never forget. I couldn’t walk in the opening ceremony because we raced a day later. The race itself…the air was fine. The air had cleared. We did start with ice on our backs to keep cool, but we finished blue in the face because we were so cold. It was a strange day. Many of us were acclimatized for the heat. I did heat training in Japan leading up to the Olympics. I am from Victoria and I know how to race in the rain but that day we were not prepared. We did not have any spare clothes. It was rough but it was the Olympics and it was a fun day.”
There is a definite Olympic pedigree in her family. Willock’s father competed in the team time trial at the 1984 Olympics. Her uncle was the 1980 Canadian road champion, and was set to represent Canada in the 1980 Olympics prior to their boycott.
“Olympics is once again my goal,” stated Willock. “TIBCO being a UCI team allows me to get over to Europe and get some UCI points. TIBCO is a great team. I obviously have known about them for years. It’s exciting to be on a team that is growing. We are getting bigger and bigger every year. I came over with Joëlle Numainville. We raced together last year. TIBCO seemed to be a good fit for me.” The third Canadian rider on TIBCO is Tara Whitten.
“It’s great riding for Linda Jackson. Linda is so passionate and still loves riding. It’s awesome that she supports Canadian riders. I love how she wants to help us out. She is so professional.” Linda Jackson, team Founder and President, won the bronze medal at the at the 1996 World Road Racing Championship and is a six-time Canadian national champion (three for road race and three for time trials).
“The UCI races starting in June will help qualify Canada towards the Olympics. TIBCO goals are to podium and win in every race we do.”
This year at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, Willock moved into second place in the overall standing when she took seconds back from HTC Highroad’s Stevens. She captured two-seconds in time bonuses. She added an additional five seconds buffer when she finished stage 2 in the lead group, ahead of Stevens. Willock completed Redlands winning second place in the overall standing.
“It’s been a great weekend,” stated Willock right after the GC podium awards. “I am very happy to be in second place on GC. Yesterday was a good day for me but a bad day for the team because we lost Alison Powers. (Powers crashed and is recovering from surgery). I got the time bonus. It was the first time for me to get up there and get the time bonus. I have been working on my sprints, so that was fun.”
“Erinne means a ton to the team,’ commented TIBCO DS Lisa Hunt. “She is a critical player for TIBCO. I’ve always know Erinne to be a solid, strong and aggressive rider. Seeing how she has been riding the last few weeks, I am just thrilled to have her on the team. She is such a valuable asset to TIBCO.”