Quark Cycling Team Training Camp, May 4, 2005
What is it about selecting a group of women to race together that's so much trickier than getting dudes to gel? Ella Lawrence travels to the Quark Women's Team training camp in Fresno, CA, to find out.
Quark team director Jim Williams was very careful in selecting riders that would fit into the team mould - Quark hopes to establish themselves as the "CSC" of women's cycling. "On CSC, there's not a Lance Armstrong-type rider; they're all strong riders and the way they race with those strong riders is what makes them so dangerous," he says. "And at the end of the year when people look at Quark and say, 'Ahhhh, that team reminds me of CSC - in women's cycling!', the goal's been met."
Williams continues, "The women that make up the pro peloton are generally going to be your Type-A personality. They're well-educated: doctors, accountants, investment bankers. The personality gets them into the sport and when they're in, the personality makes them successful. Taking that personality and mixing it with other personalities is the challenge."
Williams says the perfect Quark racer is someone who can look at the podium and relish the success of the Quark racer that's there. And when she's on the podium, she doesn't feel the win is "hers" but belongs to all the people looking up at her. A team player for thi team is someone who will, at the drop of a hat, sacrifice her performance for her teammate's. And likewise, all of those teammates will do the same for that rider the next day. The challenge is to find the group of personalities that will blend enough to do that.
"For us," Williams says, "it doesn't matter which Quark rider comes across the line first, it's just that a Quark rider does come across the line first. When you have riders of the calibre that we have, why race for one when you can use those talents! Let the OTHER teams worry about 'who we're riding for' that day. It can change at any given moment in the stage of the race. That's what's going to make us a strong team. We've got riders like Laura Van Gilder who can go in a break. We can leave Tina Mayola, save her for a sprint finish, but put Laura in a break and she's going to win any small group sprint. Sarah Uhl's a great break-rider with a good finishing kick. Helen Kelly won the sprinter's jersey a couple years ago at Redlands. So in that sense, instead of riding for one rider, everyone rides for the team which is going to make us dangerous. I think Annette Beutler is going to be a surprise; not too many people know how strong she is. She can finish from a group, and she can also go uphill pretty well. That'll be exciting to watch once we get to the stage races."
Sprinter Tina Mayola says, "The team is awesome. Everyone's really fun and really cool. I think our 'CSC approach' is good. We have so many cards to play, so many strong people. It's nice when everyone gets their chance, their day in the sun, and it takes a lot of pressure off! It's great for me, especially last year when Laura was there (on Genesis Scuba), because it didn't always have to be me sprinting or doing whatever, there's somebody else. If I'm having a bad day, she picks up the slack."
14-year racing veteran Van Gilder says, "I feel really fortunate to have the Quark team this year. We respect one another; we can be social, and be friends. It's so important, because bike racing is a hard lifestyle. You don't get paid a lot, you travel around a lot, you race hard…it's really rewarding for us to have success but also the cohesion that we have as a group."
She continues by saying, "I decided several years ago that this was not going to be a 'job' for me. I like the sport too much to have it only be that. I want it to be about people I enjoy being around, people I respect: both as riders and as people. It's important that a team has that. It's hard to put together a team like that, because the sport is so competitive, and women can be so competitive in their own ways, maybe 'catty'. Getting a good team dynamic is an art. A lot of teams strive for that and I think we have it. Jim (Williams, team director) has done a great job of picking our brains to see who we are, what our goals are, and to bring us together."
Second-year pro Sarah Uhl, who is studying kinesiology at Penn State, writes of the training camp in her online journal:
"Most memorable part of this cycling trip is witnessing the cohesion of the eight incredible women I have the privilege of racing with on the Quark Cycling Team. Other highlights of my annual western immersion include the following:
"One stop at cold stone creamery. Three funky new staff members. Three stops at Fresno's best attempt of a French bakery-café to sip strong brew and hit the studies. One stop in the heart of Yosemite National Park. Three stops in front of the podium to watch my teammates smile proud. One stop on the podium steps myself. 27 new colours and models of QUARK après-sport shoes. Endless rolls of film for posing and looking pretty for promotional purposes. Two batches of scrumptious morning muffins. Plenty of use of the culinary contraptions available in our host family's house…"
And the list continues. But it is the cohesion within the team that stands out.
Quark is the only team in the pro peloton to ride Blue Competition bicycles. Blue Competition, a new company out of Georgia, provides the women with the RC-4 carbon frames, and the team is fully Shimano-sponsored (components, wheels, pedals, and shoes). Their saddles are Fizik, tires Michelin Pros. The bikes are finished with Profile bars, stems, and bottle cages. Of the new bikes, director Williams says, "The company came about through Genesis Scuba (the now-folded team that four Quark riders raced for in 2004). They were looking for bikes for their team last year, and found some good ones but thought, 'We can do better than this.' So, they started making bikes. Blue Competition is very new, maybe three years old, and we are the only pro team to have the bikes."
[Editor's note]: During the recent Redlands Bicycle Classic, the Quark team took out the mountains classification with Annette Beutler and finished the event with two riders in the top ten on General Classification. Seems that 'CSC approach' may well be paying off already.
2005 Quark Pro Cycling Team Roster
Laura Van Gilder