News feature, February 24, 2006
Canada's top pro team, Symmetrics Cycling, closed off five days of solid training under sunny skies and spring-like weather with a ride open to media and supporters on Saturday. The full team - 17 riders, 12 men, 5 women, 6 staff - met this week in the Vancouver area to prepare for 2006, as Matt Hansen reports.
"This week had three goals," Kevin Cunningham, Symmetrics Cycling Co-owner explained. "First and foremost, the team wanted to put in some quality miles and prepare for the upcoming season. Next, we have some new riders and this was a chance for those guys and girls to mesh and get to know each other. This is probably the only time apart from road national's that everyone will be together. Finally, it's a chance to fine-tune new bikes and equipment."
Riders and staff arrived from various parts of North America - California, Quebec, Ontario - on Tuesday to meet the remainder of the BC-based squad. Several new riders, including the Ontario duo of Andrew Randell (National Road Champion 2002) and Brandon Crichton (Best Young Rider, Tour de Beauce Bell), as well as BC's Stacey Spencer (having just returned from the Cyclo-cross World's), and junior phenom Naomi Cooper, all donned the Symmetrics gear for the first time.
Spencer was keen to be part of the team, and even more pleased to be back in some warm weather after having spent the past five weeks racing in frigid Europe. "It's so great to be back in BC getting ready for the year with such a solid group of riders. After travelling and racing the past month in the dirt, it's so great to come here and have everything organised and ready for us. All we have to do now is ride," Spencer said. "For me, it's great to be riding with such a strong women's squad. I think we are going to have a great year."
With an increased race schedule and bolstered sponsorship, several new staff have been hired, including former Jet Fuel assistant director Kevin Field, who makes a lateral and performs the same role under director sportif Jeremy Storie. Finally, Quebec's Myriam Desrosiers will work with the team as head soigneur.
The most noticeable change to the team, apart from a few new faces, was a fresh jersey design. Retooling the white kit for a bold and dynamic yellow look, the new design was definitely a hit to supporters who came on the open ride. Longtime Symmetrics fan, Paul Craig described the new jersey as, "Sweet. They're definitely going to stand out in the peloton. I really like the look. And yeah, their bikes look incredibly slick."
There was a great turnout on the final day, with well over 40 riders riding alongside the team for the brisk two hour ride. Afterwards, there was a chance for fans to speak with the riders about the upcoming season, training, or their new Norco CRR frames, complete with Dura-Ace 10speed. Both the new kit and components are new sponsorship deals with Sugoi and Shimano.
The "Norco effect" is an important aspect of Symmetrics' sponsorship and race plan. Although racing for the UCI America Tour overall this year is a major priority, Symmetrics will also aim to ride the BC-based frames to victory locally. The team has had major successes riding the fast bikes - and as result, sales for Norco road bikes have realized significant growth.
Jeremy Storie explains that the bikes are just part and parcel of a bigger, better team for '06. "We have a great group of riders that encompasses a wide range of goals for the team, from the UCI America Tour, to National's, to NRC races. We have more riders this year, which means we can attack several races in North and South America at full strength." Symmetrics begins its season at the end of the month in Tucson, although two riders - Svein Tuft and Mandy Poitras - are set to go for glory at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in just a few weeks. Poitras will be hitting the boards in less than a month, and Tuft will join her in Australia to ride the TT and RR after riding the Vuelta Sonora-Arizona, and the Central Valley Classic in Fresno, California.