The 2008 season was a record-breaking year for the Columbia-High Road women’s team as they racked up 68 victories more than any other team.
“We have the number one team the last two years in a row. One remarkable statistic is that all twelve active women on the team last year all won a race. It wasn’t just about one or two big athlete, it was really a good team effort and good team work from all of our riders. The riders also had a chance to get some personal success.” said team owner Bob Stapleton.
Two of the stalwarts on the team are the German sprinter Ina-Yoko Teutenberg who had the most wins last year with 24 victories to her credit, and the American Kim Anderson whom Stapleton called “an incredible work horse and a team mate extraordinaire.”
And the ladies started 2009 right where they left of, racking up the wins in California, homebase for both Anderson and Teutenberg during the winter.
Up and comer Emilia Fahlin won the 2009 Amgen Tour of California Women’s Criterium with the assistance of her teammates, especially Anderson who chased down every attack from the break in the pouring rain. Then they followed up with the sweep at the Merco Cycling Classic and the San Dimas Stage Race in preparation for Redlands Bicycle Classic and the European races later this year.
At the age of 34 and 41 respectively, Teutenberg and “Killer” (my new nickname for her) Anderson are certainly no spring chickens but they are still kicking some major booty at races. I spoke to Anderson and Teutenberg together, a few days prior to the 2009 Amgen Tour of California.
Last year, Anderson called 2008 her last season and that she would retire. Yet here we are in 2009, and she is still racing.
“It was an idea” said Anderson about retirement.
A smiling Teutenberg then chimed in “but then she said if you keep riding, I keep riding.”
“It was fun, it was really fun, I think that’s the reason I did come back.” continued Anderson about the 2008 season. “I just think it was the preparation going into the season. I started off with a different coach last year and it started off well. And then, I think we had great success as a team and the more the team was united – and we worked together – made it easier in the races for things to happen and then luck or you know, whatever plays into there because your team is so incredible unit makes a big difference when everyone rides together instead of six different individuals out there who don’t really work at all together, opportunities happen that way.”
Keeping the changes to a minimum, only two new riders were added to the 2009 roster, and the team stability is a major part of the success.
“It makes a big difference, knowing what the others think in a race, trusting them more and more because you know how the other works in the race.” said Teutenberg.
With half the team under the age of 26, the two women are sometimes faced with a generation gap but are always willing to teach the younger riders.
“It’s fun to teach the young kinds, to bring them up a little bit but there sometimes there’s a generation clash.” said Teutenberg. To which a nodding Anderson added “really young, really young.”
One of the youngsters on the team is the 20-year old Swedish National Champion Fahlin who was brought onto the team in 2007 as a development rider.
“I can help Emilia and bring her into position but a lot of things she has to learn by herself like not to lose my wheel. I can’t really show her that, but she will get it. There’s a lot of respect too, if a lot of people give her more respect, it’s easier to get into that position too, it comes over the years.” said Teutenberg about teaching Fahlin.
Pressure. While always wanting to win, Teutenberg says that handling the pressure to deliver after such a great year is all about not losing confidence if the team doesn’t start the season as well.
“Last year we started off the season really well. We won like 2 World Cups in April straight in a row, the main thing is not to be frustrated if that doesn’t happen and work from there. We’ll probably won’t win every two and half races again, we might… For me, I’m sure I won’t win 24 races again this year, that’s totally fine, I had an outstanding season, that’s the same for the rest of the team, we won 4 world cups.” said Teutenberg.
As Anderson put it, “everyone had a good season” in 2008.
“It’s going to be hard to win 4 world cups again because the other teams are good.” continued Teutenberg. “Maybe last year we had that little bit of luck, what you need at the end to be there. Sometimes you don’t have that luck, you get a puncture at the end so just not to give up and still be happy if we win half the races and we’d still have a good season, that’s a fact.”
For Teutenberg, the status of women’s cycling is actually getting better in Europe. “It’s more competitive, it seems like girls, in order for that to happen, girls make more money so that they can concentrate on it.”
But she can’t say the same for women’s cycling in America.
“In America, the state of cycling has gone down a lot and that’s a bit sad , the first time we came over in 2000 and 2001, we had all these big teams here , all these foreigners racing here which made the scene better which made the American girls better. There’s still a lot of good American riders, you have an Olympic champion, a Worlds Champion, girls are competitive in Europe, there’s no doubt about that. I think the state of domestic scene has for sure has gone down.”
Still having fun. “That’s the only reason I’m still doing this otherwise I would retire.” said Anderson.
It’s actually getting easier with age for Teutenberg who started racing at the age of 6 to keep up with her brothers. “The training part gets easier and easier, you don’t worry, you go out, you do it, it’s fun you enjoy. For 10 years I had more problem getting motivated over the winter season now I actually find it fairly easy.”
“I get an appreciation for what this is, it’s a sport I’m fortunate to be here. I love my life, I love everything about it. You first start and it’s oh whoa and then it’s oh wow, it’s ten o’clock and I’m outside, I’m at a coffee shop.” agreed Anderson.
“It’s still the most fun and exciting part of the sport for me. These women athletes are underappreciated. They are not making enough money and will not get rich at this. They do this because they love it. You have to respect that and just enjoy it when you have a chance to see this quality.” said Stapleton who has been involved in women’s cycling since 2002.