Columbia-HTC women aim for return to the top in 2010

UPDATED: Stapleton's women's team bolster roster with Cantele, Stevens, Visser and Hosking

The Columbia-HTC women's team will be going all out to reclaim the number one spot in the world next year after being beaten by Cervélo TestTeam in 2009. It was the first time in three seasons that Bob Stapleton's squad missed out on the accolade and despite a series of crashes that robbed Judith Arndt of valuable race days, the team are looking to strengthen with the signings of Noemi Cantele, Evelyn Stevens, Adrie Visser and Chloe Hosking.

"Out biggest disappointment last year was falling from number one to number two in the world," Stapleton told Cyclingnews. Former World Champion Judith Arndt sustained three crashes in the first part of the season and didn't register her first win until June, racing just twenty days in 2009.

However, the year was far from disastrous with the ever-consistent Ina Teutenberg picking up an impressive 24 victories, including her first German road race title. Kim Anderson also won the Route de France, while the team took the top three places in the RaboSter Tour and Arndt fought back from injury to finish fourth in the individual time trial at the World Championships, one place behind her teammate Linda Melanie Villumsen.

As for his new signings, Stapleton believes that Cantele can build on the success she had at the Worlds this year where she won silver in the individual time trial and bronze in the road race. "[Evelyn] Stevens is going to be phenomenal next season too. She kicked ass in the Worlds and was the absolute animator in the race. Ina will be team leader and race captain. They're obviously a source of real pride for me. I love them to death."

Columbia have also confirmed that Dutch rider Adrie Visser and Australian rider Chloe Hosking will join the team roster for 2010. Visser, 26, has transferred to the American squad from DSB Bank - Nederland Bloeit, while Hosking, 19, has signed a full contract after riding as a stagiaire with Columbia this season.

One rider that will not be signing for the team is Britain's Nicole Cooke. The Olympic champion signed for Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung from Vision 1 Racing last week. "I like Nicole Cooke. She is a polarising figure, but one hell of a talent. The door was always open for her, let's just say that. I think some people view her as hard to work with but that doesn't trouble me. I would never say no to Cooke. I think she'll have a good year and it's good to see her active in the sport. I was worried about her this year," Stapleton said.

One thing that won't change in 2010 is Stapleton's obvious passion for his team and women's cycling in general. Columbia-HTC's team principal shows no sign of stepping aside yet. "The thing I like about it is that women's teams are generally great in terms of teamwork and nobody is getting rich. They do it because they love the sport and I like that. It's unbelievably hard and they get through it because the work together. All of their success is magnified because the rewards are modest. It represents some of the best elements of the sport."

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