By Jonathan Devich
The recent two week training camp of the Rona Cycling Team showed growth over last year and laid the groundwork for the season to come. Team manager Andre' Aubut expressed his satisfaction with the new riders he has assembled.
"We have a good team chemistry this year, everyone gets along really well," he said. "We've got more depth this year - Geneviève (Jeanson) will have more support in the mountains and we have more experienced riders for the flat days and crits."
Working with Jeanson this year are returning riders Manon Jutras (team captain) and Melissa (Meshy) Holt, the New Zealand National RR and TT champion. New for 2002 are Nicole Freedman the 2001 US National Criterium Champion, Andrea Hannos, who transferred from Verizon Wireless, Gail Longenecker, and Karen Bockel.
Each rider has brought something special to the team. Aubut analysed last season and looked for weaknesses that could be fixed. The team is still maturing and will grow stronger each year, "slowly, slowly," says Aubut. In Rona, a Canadian based chain of home improvement stores, he has found a sponsor who is as enthused about the sport as he is. And, with their confirmed commitment through 2004 he will have his time to build the team.
The first year for the team did not conclude without some bumps in the road. First came the disastrous crash of Amy Jarvis during the Canadian National TT championships. While cruising along at over 50 km an hour, Jarvis had a pickup truck pull out in front of her.
"I don't think the driver realized how fast I was going," said Jarvis. "My big worry was that I would get pushed out into the oncoming traffic."
After a short stint in the hospital, surgery to reconnect a portion of her left quadricep, and weeks of physical therapy, Jarvis is back on the bike and looking forward to the season ahead. Her first race to test out the healed injury will be February 15-17th at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Phoenix, AZ., along with most of her teammates.
The next setback the team faced was the loss of its leader, Geneviève Jeanson, for the last portion of the season. Jeanson had been having some knee troubles and the pain finally became too much to ignore. This meant disappointment for Jeanson and coach Aubut, because her injury took her out of contention for the World Championships in Portugal.
After being diagnosed with tendonitis Jeanson took some time off the bike. Since then she has made a full recovery and has been training hard.
"The knee feels good," reassures the 20 year old Jeanson. "Because I missed World's I am more motivated than ever to win races."
Winning Redlands last year was the team's first goal, as it will be again this year. The week after, they will head north to Monterey for the Sea Otter Classic, a race that they did not attend in 2001. Other major events on the schedule include the Montreal World Cup and the HP Laser Jet Women's Challenge, along with a mixture of US national calendar events and yet undecided European races.
The restructured team will be exciting to watch this year as it does battle with the power house Saturn team and the newly formed Team USA/Cannondale women's team, to name a few. Will the dominance shown by Jeanson last year be repeated this year? Can the new team members compete with the experience of other more seasoned riders in the peloton? Will the team be able to maintain its composure throughout such long events as HP?
If Aubut or anyone on the team could answer right now I know they would say "yes" to every question. We'll see how the season unfolds; I'm getting anxious already.
2002 Rona Cycling Team Roster
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