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Team TIAA-CREF 2005 team camp and launch, February 18, 2005
Going bigger and harder for 2005
After a successful first year in the under-23 ranks, Jon Vaughters' TIAA-CREF development team is expanding its scope for 2005. Erik Hultgren was in Denver for the team's launch and training camp.
Tuesday night in Denver’s upscale Adega restaurant, Team TIAA-CREF presented its 2005 teams, capping off a solid week-long training camp for the riders. The team has built on their successes of last year, and in addition to many returning team members they have added a stellar crew of young riders to the roster. The presentation was attended by many of the team’s sponsors, including executives from TIAA-CREF, and many paying attendees, anxious to show their support of the team. The evening was hosted by everyone’s favorite cycling commentator, the inestimable Phil Liggett, who charmed the audience and the team throughout the evening.
Team TIAA-CREF is acting as an under-26 development team this year, with the 5280 Magazine Junior team acting as a feeder system into the Espoir ranks. Both teams were brought out before the attendees as honored guest Liggett and team founder & director, Jonathan Vaughters, regaled the crowd with stories and quick interviews with the riders. A multimedia presentation told the stories of three of the team’s leaders and held the attention of everyone in the room. After the presentation, the attendees made their way to the tables for an evening of fine wine and dining courtesy of Adega’s award-winning staff. As dinner wound down, the winners of silent auctions for a team issue Javelin bike and a trip to France from Velo Sport Vacations were announced.
Two years ago, Vaughters started a junior program in Colorado with the assistance of 5280 Magazine. After a year, Vaughters decided to expand the program into an espoir and junior program. Several riders graduated to the espoir team and 2004 saw multiple successes for the squad: an Under-23 National Championship; multiple other medals at the championships; riders on the world road and cyclocross championship teams; Best Young Rider at the Tour de Georgia, Cascade Classic & the Estes Park Cycling Classic. For a team in its first year, 2004 was a huge success for TIAA-CREF. The team garnered media attention in many different sectors, rewarding their sponsors.
This year, the team has expanded up to an under-26 team and has increased its size considerably. The core of the team has been kept with many strong riders coming on board. With such a deep team, the squad is looking at efforts on multiple fronts: the domestic U.S. scene and taking on the European peloton in their own backyard. The team’s program hopes to include domestic marquee events like Redlands, Wachovia Pro Championships, and the San Francisco Grand Prix. In Europe, the team is aiming at the Under-26 Giro d’Italia, the Tour de l’Avenir, and many other events.
The differences from last year are clear to see. In 2004, the team was unknown, unproven, and didn’t know where they would fit into the peloton. During their stellar year, they proved they deserved their place and carried that experience into 2005. The team is filled with confidence, and seems to have formed a very strong unit. Riders, new and old, have integrated well. Watching them joke around and harass each other shows a team that is determined to stand together and take on all comers this year.
Speaking to some of the sponsors, there was a common theme as to why they were involved with the team. Rich Hincapie (of team clothing sponsor Hincapie Sports) emphasized how important it is to him to support juniors on many different levels. Whether he is helping local riders or equipping Vaughters’ squad with top-quality clothing, Hincapie believes in giving back to the sport and helping to grow the next generations. Steve Blick (of Oakley) talked about how important it is for Oakley to develop relationships with their riders and how they look at their sponsored athletes as part of their family. “Oakley is keeping an eye out for the next generation, not just the established riders” said Blick, and clearly believes “we may be looking at some of the next great talents in international cycling”. Many of the other sponsors all seem to be taking the same grass-roots long-term view of the team and program, ensuring a solid level of support for the riders through their development.
The team spent the last 10 days in Boulder, getting to know each other and getting quality miles in. Many riders came from out of town and had to contend with the altitude adjustment out on their rides. Rides were varied and the groups split based on season objectives and fitness levels. Several rides involved Vaughters’ motor pacing the team until they couldn’t handle the pace, seeing who would be the last to crack including a nearly 7 hour day riding in the mountains around Boulder.
On Friday, the team had their group photo shoot, followed by many riders being tested for their VO2 max and lactate threshold levels at Dr. Allan Lim’s performance lab in Boulder. Vaughters coaches many of the team’s riders and uses this data to tweak their training plans.
Sunday was a team ride with team sponsors and supporters. Several TIAA-CREF employees and local supporters came out to ride with the team, braving the 50+ mph wind gusts. The team rode along chatting and thanking guests for their support.
The camp wasn’t without drama though. 2004 Olympic squad member Colby Pearce had an altercation with an aggressive motorist which ended with Pearce stranded on the road with a shattered bike (but without injury to himself). The last day brought a surprise snowfall which amused young Stefano Barberi, who had never seen snow (being from Brazil).
Several riders showed themselves well during camp. Nathan Mitchell surprised many climbing strongly, showing he had put in the winter miles. Hans Arnesen (who won the 2004 Little 500 race at Indiana University earning him a spot at camp) stormed up the biggest hills he’d ever seen. Will Frischkorn showed up at camp leaner and stronger than when he won the season ending Colorado Cyclist Classic NRC event last year.
There’s a palpable excitement around this team. Vaughters is not alone in his enthusiasm for the coming season. He has set lofty goals for the team. “Being truly competitive at the Tour de Georgia, winning the Best Young Rider at Georgia and Under-23 Nationals again, and finishing 4 or 5 riders at the Under-26 Giro d’Italia” would make the season a real success says Vaughters.
With such a deep roster and the ability to have many leaders in any situation, they are poised to shake things up. Expect to see Team TIAA-CREF rack up some big results, whether here in the U.S. or across the pond in Europe. Best of luck boys!
Team TIAA-CREF Roster
Rider Notable Result Stefano Barberi 1st Place Florida State Criterium Championship Dan Bowman Best Young Rider – Colorado Cyclist Classic Blake Caldwell 12-time Junior National Champion Sheldon Deeny 1st place, Stage 1, Estes Park Stage Race Timmy Duggan 2 time World Championship Team member Will Frischkorn 3rd place, Under-23 Tour of Flanders Stuart Gillespie Best Young Rider – 2004 Tour of Connecticut Zak Grabowski 7-time Junior National Champion Chad Hartley 1st place Univest Criterium Jay Ku 13th 2003 Under-23 National Championship Michael Lange 1st place Time Trial Tour de la Martinique Craig Lewis Best American 2003 Junior World Championships Ian MacGregor 2004 Espoir National Road Race Champion Nathan Mitchell 3rd place Under-23 National Criterium Championship David Robinson 4th place Under-23 National Road Race Championship Bryan Smith 2004 Collegiate National Champion Zach Taylor 2004 Jr. National Criterium Champion Todd Yezefski 2nd place, 2004 Collegiate National Championship omnium
Official Team Site: www.tiaacrefcycling.com
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Beth Seliga/www.3catsphoto.com