Recently, Jono Coulter, Technical Director, Vanderkitten-Focus, received disappointing news. His team did not receive an invite to the inaugural Exergy Tour. Coulter and his Vanderkitten-Focus team reached out to their fans via Twitter and Facebook. The team acknowledged their disappointment and embraced the support of their fans.
Twitter: “Grateful for amazing support from VK fans friends & sponsors. Vanderkitten remains committed 2 the empowerment of female athletes everywhere.”
Facebook: “No Exergy Tour for VK? Nevermind! Thanks for all the support from our friends worldwide- we have a great summer calendar that includes racing in 3 countries and 8 US States. Vanderkitten will remain committed to the empowerment of female athletes everywhere! Thanks especially to Focus Bicycles, USA Kenda Tire (Bicycle), Jelly Belly, Chamois Butt’r, KASK HELMETS, Vittoria Cycling Shoes, JLvelo for sticking by us thru thick and thin.”
“Cycling is a political sport and it’s not going to change,” stated Coulter. “We are making our best efforts to create an international team here. You can argue back and forth of the merits of having an UCI team in the US, the cutoff when this UCI race was announced, our ranking using UCI points and the opportunities our riders have to do UCI races. It’s disappointing, but those things are going to happen in sports. You build a bridge and get over it basically.”
“Over the last year and a half Vanderkitten has grown,” continued Coulter. “It is a team with more international riders. This year, with Bridie O’Donnell, we have four riders from Australia. She is definitely a rider that brings proven talent and class. There is something about the Australian and New Zealand riders. They come here with the bare basics and they work so hard. They are really committed.”
The Exergy Tour invite would have been welcomed, but the team definitely has a full racing schedule ahead. Vanderkitten-Focus will be racing; USA CRITS Speedweek, Chrono Gatineau GP, Glencoe Grand Prix, Liberty Classic, Saint Francis Tulsa Tough, Nature Valley Grand Prix, Tour of America’s Dairyland, Exergy Twilight Criterium, Cascade Classic Stage Race, Tour of Elk Grove, Aspen/Snowmass Pro Women’s Race, and TD Bank Mayors Cup.
“We knew that we could make an impact in some of the bigger races and are pretty excited about the upcoming races. For some of the younger girls, they will have 26 days of racing. That is quite a heavy schedule.”
The team is currently a nice mix of young, up and coming riders, and experienced veterans.
“Last year I took the young members to the side and asked them what they wanted. For them it was not about getting a massive salary. They wanted to learn from riders who have experience. We are so fortunate to have Bridie O’Donnell and Kathryn Curi Mattis on the team. Kathryn has been invaluable. She has given the girls guidance. These women have lots of cycling knowledge to share. They are strong, clever, articulate and great spokesmen for the sport. We couldn’t be happier for the team or for the young riders.”
Vanderkitten-Focus have utilized social media quite effectively. Communicating with their fan base is essential.
“We have to be active on social media. It is critical for us to make people aware of the Vanderkitten brand. Selling the Vanderkitten apparel gets us to the next race and it’s pretty exciting for the girls to get the attention and recognition.”