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Training camp report for February 13, 2005
On the move with the T-Mobile Women's Cycling Team
Solvang, CA, USA, February 5, 2005
During the T-Mobile Women's pre-season training camp in Solvang, California, Cyclingnews' Mitch Friedman spent a day with the riders and team management, shooting pics and talking with spokesperson Mari Holden and owner Bob Stapleton, to learn a little more about the team's plans for 2005.
The day started off cold and overcast as the riders came out for a day of riding in the beautiful Solvang area of California. A lot of teams come here in the early part of the year to train, and T- Mobile is one of them.
This year, the team has downsized a bit with eight riders comprising the 2005 line-up. Returning this year is Mari Holden who will hold two hats as rider as well as PR person for the team. Also coming back are Kristin Armstrong, Kimberly Bruckner and Lara Kroepsch. New recruits are 2004 Jr World's TT Silver medalist Rebecca Much, Kori Seehafer, Brooke Ourada and after a year off, Ina Teutenberg.
As the women came out, we did some headshots to have on file and then do a team photo before they got on the bikes to ride. Out on the ride, they were to be joined by some of the T-Mobile heads, with the owner of the team and founder of the company, Bob Stapleton, on hand as well as his partners and some of the inside guys that work there. The ride was to be an easy ride, but with a wrong turn they had some climbing to do as I sat with Anje the team manager in the team car, shooting photos and chatting with him.
Anje said that the team's main focus was on the early spring races and stage races with some crits and to win the national championships before heading to Italy to ride the Giro Femminile (women's Giro) and the Tour of Germany.
With Rebecca Much new to the team and just up from the junior ranks, I asked Anje where he would like to see in her in the next five years. He said this year was to let Rebecca learn what it's like in the elite races; he believes she has a lot of talent, but the team is looking into the future for her, so she has a good, long future in the sport. He hopes in the next Olympic Games, she will be there.
The ride was going well as we shot photos and had fun with the girls as we let them draft the team van as I sat in the back shooting photos, making them laugh. After that, the women came back and got lunch.
Ina wanted to get in some more saddle time and Anje was going to go on the ride with her; they asked if I wanted to go on an easy ride with them. I knew I was going to hurt on the ride as I'm out of shape, but Ina made it clear it was going to be an easy flat ride. Yeah sure, I thought to myself. We were off; by the eight-mile mark I was feeling bad, and by the 12-mile mark, my calf muscles were cramping!
But after 16-miles or so, I was feeling good and the pain in my calves was going away. Ina and Anje let me suck wheels the whole ride and waited for me on the inclines (I felt like they were big hills today). Ina said she had fun riding with me and had fun making me hurt - I said next time I ride with her, I will be in shape and not get dropped so badly!
After the ride I spoke with Mari about her new roll as PR person and the team.
Cyclingnews: Mari you have a new role on the team; what is this going to be like for you?
Mari Holden: Well, I'm just really excited to be with the team again this year, because I planned on retiring. When the opportunity came up to do some PR, I was really excited to help out the team and Bob with the PR stuff, and after the surgery on my leg, it was pretty good and I decided to do some races. Bob said: 'no problem, race for the team', so now I'm excited and I think it will be fun.
CN: Mari, what do you think about the downsizing of the team and now having Ina on the team?
MH: (laughing) I'm so excited about this. I rode on a team with Ina back in '97 and she is one of the greatest team-mates I have ever had, I'm so thrilled that I get to ride with her again. I know that she brings a very interesting element to our team and now we have so many more options now that we have someone that can actually win in a sprint or in a break. So I think she adds a whole new dimension to the team.
CN: How about Rebecca? How will you keep her from getting burned out and motivated?
MH: I think Rebecca is awesome; she is such a neat girl. I'm excited about her on the team, and now we have some new riders to the sport and some super veteran riders on the team, too. I think it's a really good mix and we all have our own styles, and she is going too learn a lot from being around the different riders on the team. There is a wealth of knowledge there for her and the best thing about it is that we all want to see her succeed.
I think she is in a very good environment and that Anje will be a really a big benefit for her. I think she has a very good work ethic and she is super motivated, so it's perfect to come onto a team like this, in that there won't be a huge amount of pressure on her, but she has every opportunity to learn. The team is completely behind her and understands she is trying everything out; she's trying out the road, trying the track and she wants to do a little mountain biking, and that's what you should do as a junior - see what you like. She can race as much as she wants with us, so it will be a great experience for her. I keep telling her she has 20 more years to go (laughing) - she does not have to do all of it in one day.
CN: Youth? Come on, she is not going to listen to that!
MH: (laughs) I know, but I'll try!
After dinner with the team, I was also able to ask Bob some things about the team.
CN: What made you decide to start this team?
Bob Stapleton: Well, it originally came from T-Mobile's longtime sponsorship in cycling. It's probably the largest cycling sponsorship in the world with its men team in Europe, and I think this complements that so well.
I think the reason we have kept it strong in the US is that it adds a nice brand element to the 'Get more from life' positioning which is what the T-Mobile brand is all about. It's such a strong group of compelling athletes; they are genuine and authentic athletes, but they are also approachable and likeable and they love to meet people.
CN: What was your position at T-Mobile?
BS: I was the founder of the company and ran its operations for I guess for about nine years and recently left the company this past October. Now I'm supporting this program independently from the company so it's more like a traditional team, were T-Mobile pays a sponsorship fee and Anje, myself, Mari, Steve and some other members of the family keep things on the road.
CN: Last year, the team was based more around the Olympics and this year you're looking at winning races here and in Europe, as well as the US Nationals. Where do you see the team in five years?
BS: Well, I don't think we will ever lose focus on the Olympics; for American athletes and especially women, but we want to be a well-rounded program and win everything we can. Our team in the last couple years has had some defects and we have remedied them.
Separating from USA Cycling gave us more clear focus and less politics, and by not limiting ourself to American talent, I think we can build a stronger program that will make all the athletes better.
CN: Besides the national championships, what other big races do you want to win?
BS: We want to win them all! We are strong, we have augmented our sprinting a lot - we have Ina and other athletes that can sprint - and we will be a great stage race team. We also have riders that can climb and win TTs, as we have world and national championship level athletes in the TT.
Team mechanic Steve Kiusalas told me a bit about the new bikes. They are 840 grams for a frame and 1140 frame and fork. The fork is 60 to 65 grams lighter and the frame is 100 grams lighter then last year's. They have changed the top and down tubes, and have new lugs, dropouts as well as a sculpted frame. Check out how they run the cable in the frame in the photo.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mitch Friedman/www.mitchophoto.com