By Shane Stokes
Focusing on a friendly, family-like approach rather than the glitzy presentations favoured by T-Mobile in years past, Columbia High Road introduced its 2009 team to the media on Saturday. As was the case with T-Mobile, the launch was held in the Club Robinson resort on the east side of Majorca. However this time the large theatre and charter-jet full of journalists was passed up in favour of that more intimate setup.
In truth, the team doesn't need that glitz; it's about substance rather than an excess of style. Last year both the men's and women's teams were the most successful in cycling, winning 85 and 68 races respectively. In fact, the women were victorious in more than half the races they entered; that's a staggering statistic in a sport with so many teams and so many riders.
Columbia High Road won from the start until the end of the season in 2008, and it is planning on doing the same again. Because of that, not all of its riders were present; for example, Michael Rogers has just taken the team's first victory of the year by winning the Australian time trial championships. He, Adam Hansen and Mark Renshaw will ride the road race on Sunday, while the German rider Judith Arndt took advantage of the open nature of those champs to compete in Saturday's women's race. Other riders such as George Hincapie are preparing for their own imminent start of competition.
"Cycling has changed a little bit and the season no longer begins in March and April. We have big races now in January and February," explained Bob Stapleton, team owner. "We have got an exciting group of athletes here but we also have a number who are already out and who are making final preparations for racing. We have got a very strong team in the Tour Down Under, and they are down in Australia right now. That includes George Hincapie, that includes André Greipel, who along with his team-mates dominated that race last year, winning five of the six stages, and also Adam Hansen and Michael Rogers."
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