The DS Corner

Posted on 12. May, 2011 by in interviews

Time to talk to some of the Directeur Sportif on the women’s teams in our second installment of the DS Corner. Two months in, we saw the strong return of Clara Hughes to racing as she smoked the TT, outsprinted the bunch for the win in the crit and kept up with the climbers to win the overall at the SRAM Tour of the Gila.

Colavita/Forno d’Asolo is on a winning streak, claiming stages at Redlands Bicycle Classic, SRAM Tour of the Gila, and the overall too at Joe Martin Stage Race and USA Crits Speedweek. The team now leads both the NRC Individual Classification with Janel Holcomb and the team classification. They also lost Cath Cheatley to injury during this period.

TIBCO/To The Top was struck with bad luck, losing rider after rider to injury, Alison Powers, Carmen Small and Erinne Willock are all currently injured. The team had a little meditation ceremony at Joe Martin and was able to rally to win a stage. Here’s hoping all the bad luck is behind them.  Of note, DS Lisa Hunt was awarded the Carole King Sportsmanship Award at Redlands earlier this year.

With teams such as Team VBF, Webcor Builders, disappearing at the end of last year, it was great to see new teams not only popping up but racing aggressively, initiating and going into moves and getting the wins. One of the new teams this year, Primal/MapMyRide was able to pull out the sprint jersey at Sea Otter, a podium finish at Gila and a stage win, the first NRC win for the team at Joe Martin. And Missing Link/Specialized had a fabulous Gila race, putting their riders in the wind and able to tame the Gila Monster on the final day for their NRC stage win.  Finally, not a new team as such, but a team with a new sponsor, Juvederm/Specialized, the only UCI women’s team registered in Canada, was in the mix of things with their young riders getting on the podium at Redlands  and also winning the best young rider at Gila.

Also many of the women’s teams face an extra challenge with having to juggle riders racing in Europe with National teams. The Olympic Games are a lot more important for the women and UCI points are key.

At the start of Joe Martin, we talked with three of the DS of women’s domestic teams and asked them the same three questions

  • What do you think of the quality of the field so far? Has the racing been aggressive? Has it been good racing?
  • Did you have to change your approach and strategy to racing after seeing the first few races?
  • How satisfied are you from the start of the season? What would you consider the highs and lows?
  • One thing that women’s teams face is the fact that many of their riders race in Europe. How do you manage that schedule-wise and making that riders meet their own personal goals and team goals?

Read on to see what Lisa Hunt of TIBCO/To The Top, Rachel Heal of Colavita/Forno d’Asolo and Susannah Gordon of  Primal/MapMyRide  to say.

Lisa Hunt , Carole King Award Sportsmanship Recipient at the 2011 Redlands Bicycle Classic - photo c Stephanie Gutowski

Lisa Hunt , Carole King Award Sportsmanship Recipient at the 2011 Redlands Bicycle Classic - photo c Stephanie Gutowski

Lisa Hunt, DS of TIBCO/To The Top

What do you think of the quality of the field so far? Has the racing been aggressive? “I think the quality is fantastic. I think that we have several teams that are very, very competitive. It’s not just one team that’s dominant, obviously Colavita has been strong in several races but we’ve had our little bad luck so it’s okay. But I think the racing style has been very aggressive, I’m really pleased to see it.”

Did you have to change your approach and strategy to racing after seeing the first few races? “We’ve had to change our strategy a bit because we’ve lost riders. We’ve had to play it a little bit more conservative, wait for opportunities and I would say that we don’t really like to race that way, but we just race smarter. I have smart girls that know what they’re doing and I’m confident that as we continue, we’ll probably adjust our racing style to match the roster that we have and the roster that other teams have.”

How satisfied are you from the start of the season? What would you consider the highs and lows? “I think the highs, we had a strong start at San Dimas and then we had a very, very strong start in Redlands. Erinne and Carmen were just riding spectacularly and Meredith, I’m just really pleased with all the girls. The luck that we’ve had with Ali Powers breaking her elbow at Redlands was a severe blow, and then Erinne broke her scapula in Europe, that was a severe blow to our Gila squad. I’ve been happy, right now I’m focusing on the positive and the upwards because we have girls coming back from Europe. The girls did great in Europe and it’s nice to have them back here and ready.”

How do you break that bad luck? “We’ve had some meditation, I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine (chuckles), but it’s being positive with each other, and me with the riders. It’s hard.”

How do you manage riders racing in Europe schedule-wise and making that riders meet their own personal goals and team goals? “We do have very specific goals both here and in Europe, we want to support riders’ goal of making the 2012 Olympic team and that’s one of the reason why we have our UCI team so they can go race in Europe because we have very strong riders. We’ve structured the schedule so that we have strong teams both place, the fact of the matter is we’ve just had some bad luck.”

Rachel Heal, DS of Colavita/Forno d’Asolo

What do you think of the quality of the field so far? Has the racing been aggressive? “It has been. Obviously with a couple of teams disappearing at the end of last year, there were a few questions on what was going to change. There seems to be a lot of new teams come in, teams like Primal, Juvederm – although I think Juvederm is a reincarnation of a previous team – but they seem to be fairly young teams but with an aggressive attitude so they’re not afraid to go out there and make the racing which is great.”

Did you have to change your approach and strategy to racing after seeing the first few races? “We like aggressive racing, I think we’ve already seen this year that we can either go out and race in a breakaway or we can win from a bunch sprint. It’s great for us because it means we don’t always have to stick to one style of racing, we can send riders off the front in a break or on their own, or if it comes down to a bunch sprint, we can take it that way. I don’t think that we’ve particularly changed, I prefer to racing to our own strategy rather than sitting back and waiting to see what everyone else is doing.”

How satisfied are you from the start of the season? What would you consider the highs and lows? (laughs) “I could not possibly ask for a better start of the season. I think we’ve had, 1,2 ,3 … 10 wins, only two months in the season, 9 in NRC races and San Dimas which is still a big race. I think probably one of the highs was Heather’s win at Gila. Obviously, Theresa’s wins are awesome but Theresa has already proven that she can win whereas Heather is much more an up and coming rider. Especially with some of the controversy at San Dimas, it was great for Heather to be able to go out and prove that she is really that strong rider and that win wasn’t a fluke, or a win that people should question, she really does have that talent.”

How do you manage riders racing in Europe schedule-wise and making that riders meet their own personal goals and team goals? “We’re definitely suffering with that, we’ve only got three riders here, four riders are away with National teams. It’s difficult but having been through it myself, a lot of men look at it as a job, women are in it because they want to do it and they have their own goals in terms of where they want to get and I don’t want to be in a position to kind of step on those goals, to prevent anyone achieving those goals. And we’re really lucky that John, the marketing director of our team is very supportive, he is supportive of riders achieving their own goals which is possibly unusual for a sponsor.”

DS Rachel Heal with her Colavita/Forno d'Asolo riders Janel Holcomb and Modesta Vzesniauskaite at Joe Martin

DS Rachel Heal with her Colavita/Forno d'Asolo riders Janel Holcomb and Modesta Vzesniauskaite at Joe Martin

Susannah Gordon, DS of Primal/MapMyRide

What do you think of the quality of the field so far? Has the racing been aggressive? “I think we’d wish it would be a little bit more aggressive. We’re trying to get a feel for our team, it’s hard for us, this is our first season as a team, we’re trying to figure each other out as a team and how we function as a team and at the same time, get in the game. One of the questions I asked the girls at the beginning of the season is how do you want the other teams to view us? Knowing that teams look at each and discuss how they race that race and so forth. I said, what do you girls want the other teams to take away from each race about us? And one of the things that we all talked about was they they wanted them to think that we race our bikes and that we try to race aggressively. We may not be a GC contention team this year at every race but we would love to go for stage wins. We’re trying to get out there, we’re trying to do what we can do to keep the scene interesting and keep the peloton going. It’s interesting some of the teams are a little bit more aggressive than others.”

Did you have to change your approach and strategy to racing after seeing the first few races? “Not really, we’re still trying to figure it out. Some of the riders kind of surprised me in the strength that they have. Some of the gals that I thought would be more GC riders haven’t necessarily done that, some other gals came out and surprised me a little bit on their strength. We’re still trying out to figure out who does what, what role everybody is going to play on this team and things changed a little bit for us from the beginning. The girls are all willing to step in, and this is what I love about this team, there’s no one person that has any high expectations, everybody is willing to step in and whoever is feeling good at that race, everybody steps in and races for that person. That could change from race to race, we don’t have one person that we race for. I like that about the girls because everybody is willing to take a peak at who’s feeling strong at that time, and who’s having a good race and then try to race for that person. That’s one of those things of having a new squad, figuring out who plays what role but everybody has been very open to whoever is feeling good at whatever race plays the lead role and everybody else tries to help that person.”

How satisfied are you from the start of the season? What would you consider the highs and lows? “I think Gila was probably one of our best races, we were able to pull a little bit more stuff together and do some tactics that we had been working on. I think we probably had our best set of results at Gila. Sea Otter was a fairly good race, we actually tried to go for the sprint points and we were able to complete that and that was a team effort, everybody was doing what they were told to do, get Emily up front and get her those points and taking points away from the rest of the field. Redlands was a bit of crapshoot for us because it was our first ever race as a team. Now we’re split up with part of our squad at Speedweek and part at Joe Martin with some guest riders. It’s still a little bit hard and we’ve had such a short season so far, with three or four races as a team, it’s still so early in the season for us anyway because we’re such a new team. I’m happy with the girls, I think they’re doing great, I’m pleased.”

What do you think are the challenges you face because you’re a new team this year? “What makes Colavita so strong this year is that those girls have been together and riding for such a long time. They know each other really well and Rachel does a great job with them. You take a squad like that that just rides cohesively together and we’re still trying to get there. We’re still trying to figure each other out. That’s one of the biggest challenges for me but at the same time, a lot of girls on the team are very knowledgeable in the peloton, they know what they’re doing, I love the experience that they have. Some of them aren’t, we have a few girls that are relatively new to the sport and they’re learning and that’s cool. I want this team to be sounding board to some of these younger girls to maybe go on to bigger teams eventually if they want to do that. I would love to be that team that has some of these older riders, some of the girls that didn’t have a home this year but are really experienced, they have tons of experience and they’re strong and combine that with girls that don’t have that much experience and they’re still strong, and be a team where we can launch younger riders. Eventually send those girls to Europe and give them an opportunity for the future. If we can be a team that can do that, that’s great and still be competitive in the peloton. We’re having a blast.” (laughs)

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