By Susan Westemeyer in Nürnberg, Germany
Jens Zemke, Sport Director for Equipe Nürnberger, has modest goals for this season: "Everything that is on our calendar!" He has been with the team seven years now. "We have had successes every year so far and I think we will have more again this year." But with only seven years, he hasn't been there for even half of the team's existence. It celebrated its fifteenth season at its presentation Thursday night in Nürnberg, Germany.
The team is made up of 16 women, 12 of them from Germany. They range in age from 18 (new pro Lena Köckerling) to 33 (Regina Schleicher). There are, in fact, three riders over 30 Schleicher, Edita Pucinskaite and Christina Becker and three teenagers Köckerling, Romy Kasper and Corinna Thumm. Their specialities are equally widespread, with Pucinskaite and Trixi Worrack the stars for stage races, and former World Champion Schleicher being the fast woman for the sprints, But they may all have to look to Suzanne de Goede, a 23 year-old Dutch woman who came over from T-Mobile Team this year, and got the team's first win in 2008.She won the first stage of the Women's Tour of New Zealand, by winning a small bunch sprint.
Not a newcomer but not exactly a grizzled veteran is Claudia Häusler, who at 22 has been a pro for three years now. The team looks to her in the mountains, as she last year won the mountain rankings in both the Tour de l'Aude and the Tour de Grand Montreal, as well as the German mountain title. Häusler also finished fourth in the U23 Worlds race.
Charlotte Becker will represent the team at the upcoming World Track Championships in Manchester, riding in two events and hoping to add a Worlds title to her long list of German and European titles. She is no slouch on the road either, having won the national time trial championship and several races in Germany.
Schleicher sprinted to the world road title in 2005, and proved last year that she still has the strength and speed, taking five wins on the year. Trixi Worrack is only 26, but has been with the team longer than any other rider, since 2003. Her long list of palmares also shows five wins last season, and the stage-race expert got the new season off to a good start with a fifth place overall finish in the Women's Tour of New Zealand.
The "star" of the team, but without star allure, is Edita Pucinskaite. After 20 years with Italian teams, she moved to Nürnberger last season. The 32 year-old brought in eight wins in her first season for the German team, including three stages of the Giro d'Italia Femminile well as the overall title. This year she will look to repeat that success, as well as the Olympics and the Worlds, which will be held in her adopted homeland of Italy.
"We have a strong team," noted Zemke, "with exciting newcomers and strong returning riders. For example, one newcomer is Suzanne De Goede, who is a great addition to the team. And the returnees are equally valuable and exciting. Look at Modesta Vzesniauskaite. She hadn't ridden for over a year" due to a long bout with mononucleosis. "Other teams might have given up on her, but we didn't. And she proved us right by coming back and finishing sixth in her first race this year, the Gran Premio Brissago Lago Maggiore. We hope to see a lot more of that from her."
Doping is also a theme in women's cycling, even if it is not as big an issue as with the men. "Of course it is," Zemke said. "Just yesterday the girls were visited by the NADA for controls. They are in the ADAMS whereabouts system, where they have to say where they will be three months in advance."
The team also does what it can to help the riders. "Every few weeks we conduct blood analyses. We have a nutritional supplement sponsor, who takes the results of these blood analyses and puts together an individualized supplement program for each woman, depending on her needs. This keeps them from saying, oh I need iron or magnesium or whatever, and going to the supermarket to get it and taking the chance of getting a tainted product."
But meanwhile the team is looking to uphold and improve its track record. "The World Cup races are the most important, especially since the girls can use them to qualify for the Olympics," Zemke noted. "There are 11 World Cup races and we want to do well in each of them. Then, too, of course, the national championships, the World championships and of course the Olympics."