What a start of the season for the Colavita/Forno d’Asolo squad. By my calculation, the team has already racked 16 victories in 2011, with 13 of those coming in NRC events. Those wins include winning the overall at both the USA Crits Speedweek series and the overall at Joe Martin Stage Race at the same time with a split squad.
“Success breeds success, the team is on a roll.” said DS Rachel Heal about the team’s great start to the season. And every time a Colavita rider is on the podium, you’ll find the rest of the team cheering and clapping, that doesn’t happen with every team.
For Heal, a lot of the success can be explained by team chemistry. “The team gets along really, really well together and every rider is more than happy to sacrifice themselves for their teammate. I think that makes a real difference, every victory is viewed as a team victory not an individual one.”
Team chemistry, sacrificing for one’s teammate is certainly not a new concept in cycling. But is it rare?
Heal paused, and then replied, “Is it rare? It’s not that common. I think it’s common for people to like to think that a team works like that.” She used the old Saturn team as an example.
“Just because athletes are naturally competitive people so they all want to win which is what makes them good so it’s hard task to ask people who are competitive and competitive enough to win to be also teamwork orientated and asked to work for each other.”
Splitting the team in two, to race at the USA Crits Speedweek events in the Southeast and with four riders off racing with their National teams meant that the Joe Martin Colavita squad was only three riders strong, Janel Holcomb, Modesta Vzesniauskaite and Kristin Sanders.
Holcomb won the opening time trial by less than ten seconds and was set to defend on the first stage, but an ill-timed mechanical in the final 3km took her out of the final sprint. Down by less than 10 seconds into the stage, TIBCO/To The Top’s Megan Guarnier took the stage win in a uphill sprint finish and the pink leader’s jersey.
“We had a little unfortunate incident, Janel had to have a bike change at the worst possible time coming into the finishing chute. It’s part of bike racing.” Sanders said after the stage.
The trio rallied for the next stage, covered all attacks and Holcomb sat on ace sprinter Vzesniauskaite ‘s wheel for the finish.
“Modesta and I were going, going, going and Modesta was just lingering behind to watch over her shoulder to see if someone was going to come up on me then she would have gone for the seconds, whatever she could do. There I was, spinning and I hope at least I was in my drops for that sprint.” Holcomb said with a laugh.
With her fast finishing kick, Vzesniauskaite could have beaten Holcomb to the line but Holcomb needed the ten seconds of time bonus associated with the win for the GC battle so Holcomb crossed the line first followed by her teammate.
Holcomb and her teammates successfully defended the lead on the final stage, the 55-minute crit in downtown Fayetteville.
“I’m elated.” an emotional Holcomb said after winning the overall. For her, it was all about the team.
“I just started riding with Modesta last week and for her, as a sprinter to say to me yesterday, ‘Janel if you say you’re good, I know you’re good’. Kristin is just like me as a rider, we can both climb, we can both time trial and for her, to put it all on the line for me is kind of like when you read books about cycling, wow that sounds cool, and to have it actually happening is amazing. I have to say Rachel is just a stunning director. [soigneur] Ronnie [Lenzi] is the shoulder, the support, it’s Mother’s day but we have to call it Ronnie Day. And James too to come in and deal with whatever was horribly wrong, I’ve been breaking derailleurs left and right, and he’s been troubleshooting them every day.”
Holcomb continued with a smile, “All that is a package deal, I’m elated but it’s because of everything the team does. It’s fun to do this also when you have fierce competitors like TIBCO.”
The trio took home the overall, two stage wins, the green sprint jersey and the team classification from Joe Martin. And Holcomb took over the top of the NRC individual classification while the team has a commanding 446-point lead in the team standings.
The team is hoping to continue with its winning ways with the next races. After a stop in St. Louis for the Tour de Grove on May 14th, Colavita/Forno D’Asolo will head north for Canada’s Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau on May 19-21 where World Road Champion Giorgia Bronzini will join them on the starting line.