The women riders making up Team HTC-Columbia’s professional cycling squad face a formidable opponent this year: themselves.
In 2009, the San Luis Obispo-based HTC-Columbia won 46 races — more than any other of the nearly two dozen professional teams on the women’s circuit.
The question this year is how to exceed such a strong showing.
“It’s just such a pleasure to win, you always want to win more,” said Ronny Lauke, manager of the women’s team.
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Lauke and other HTC-Columbia officials formally introduced the women’s team to local media Friday and had a fresh string of victories to showcase.
Led by 34-year-old Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of Germany, the HTC-Columbia team took three races last weekend in Merced — the team time trial, downtown criterium and 71-mile road race. Teutenberg won the criterium and road race.
She is a key reason why the HTC-Columbia women had such a strong performance in 2009.
Teutenberg, the defending German national champion, had 24 race wins last season, the most for any woman competitor.
“Ina is the top rider, male or female, in our sport,” said HTC-Columbia team owner Bob Stapleton, citing her number of victories.
Fielding a women’s team
Stapleton first became associated with Teutenberg seven years ago, when she was part of the T-Mobile women’s squad.
In 2007, Stapleton took over T-Mobile’s men’s and women’s teams and formed what was then called Team High Road. A former executive in telecommunications, Stapleton based High Road in San Luis Obispo because he had retired to the city.
He went on to get main sponsorship from HTC, a manufacturer of cell phones, and sportswear maker Columbia.
The aspect of fielding both men’s and women’s squads is rare in cycling — besides HTC-Columbia, only Cervelo, a bike manufacturer, supports both.
Stapleton said that fielding dual squads is not that daunting — once the infrastructure of equipment, coaching and travel is set up for one team, it is easier to field the other.
“Women athletes are among the hardest-working athletes in any sport,” he said. “What is enjoyable is seeing the personal growth of the women athletes.”
Training in San Luis Obispo
Kim Anderson, another member of the team whose hometown is Santa Barbara, gazed out at the green hills surrounding O’Connor Way, where HTC-Columbia’s office is located.
“I don’t get to come here all that much, but it is such an amazing place,” she said when asked about riding in San Luis Obispo.“It is great riding here. There are so many different directions you can go.”
Teutenberg has more experience with San Luis Obispo: When the racing season ends in October, she moves here and stays until racing picks up again in March.
She likes San Luis Obispo, she said, because “it is small and not as busy as the rest of California.
“And it has good coffee shops. That is the main thing.”
Kim Anderson, 41, USA
Judith Arndt, 34, Germany
Noeme Cantele, 28, Italy
Emilia Fahlin, 20, Sweden
Chloe Hosking, 19, Australia
Luise Keller, 25, Germany
Evelyn Stevens, 25, USA
Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, 34, Germany
Ellen Van Dijk, 22, Netherlands
Linda Melanie Villumsen, 24, New Zealand
Adrie Visser, 26, Netherlands
Women’s vs. men’s cycling: Some key differences
Women: Longest stage races go for just over a week and cover hundreds of miles in total. The goal is to capture the World Cup by performing well on a series of one-day events. HTC-Columbia will compete in 16 events.
Men: The racing calendar features long stage races, like the Tour de France, which covers more than 2,000 miles in total. Team HTC-Columbia has about 70 events on the calendar this year.