Continuing the growth of women's cycling
Since its debut season in 2012, Specialized-lululemon have been one the teams to watch in the women's professional peloton. Despite racing in an eye-catching kit devoid of any large sponsors name or logo, the team is easy to spot whether it be animating races or visiting podiums.
Born from the ashes of the HTC-Highroad team, team manager Kristy Scrymgeour has overseen the growth of the squad which has won back-to-back team time trial world champion medals, the 2013 individual time trial rainbow jersey courtesy of Ellen van Dijk and numerous other races and national championships in two-and-a-bit seasons.
Having worked for Cyclingnews before taking up the marketing/communications role at HTC-Highroad at the behest of Bob Stapleton, Scrymgeour has proven adept as in her role as team owner.
Despite losing world time trial champion Ellen Van Dijk in 2014, Scrymgeour's season goal for the team is a third consecutive team time trial crown. A fan of the event since its re-inception into the world championships, Scrymgeour explained how this race was special to her and her team.
"The team time trial at the world championships is one of the most exciting things the UCI has done for women's cycling lately and its created exciting competition between the teams," she told Cyclingnews.
"For the men also, prior to this event, the pro teams didn't get the opportunity to have any involvement at the world championships but now we do and it's great. Amongst the teams it has become a great competition and for the riders, making that time trial team is something they aim for. It's definitely a good event and we are focused on trying to back up (the win) again."
There have been several other personal changes to the team this year and despite not yet claiming a World Cup win, Scrymgeour is happy with how the season is progressing.
"I love our team this year. We have some great new girls racing who are going well and the team is racing really well together," she said. "As a team, I think the riders are animating the races we've been in but we haven't had the big World Cup results this year that we've had in the past. We're still going for that top podium spot at the world cup."
One of the new riders for the team in 2014 is 25-year-old Australian Tiffany Cromwell who joined the American-based team after two years with Orica-AIS, looking for more leadership opportunities. As a fellow Australian, Scrymgeour was well aware of Cromwell and has been pleased by her addition to the squad.
"I've watched Tiff race for a long time, probably when she first started in Australia and then when she was on American teams and the last couple of years when she's really picked up her game," Scrymgeour explained. "I think that she was great on Orica and enjoyed it there, but was ready for a change so she came to me at the end of last year.
"She's a great fit for our team, she has a lot of energy, she races well and aggressively, she's smart about the way she races and she's really motivated. It's great to have her on board."
While some teams target specific races throughout the year at which they wish to excel, the mantra at Specialized-lululemon is that all races are of equal importance as Scrymgeour stated.
"With our team, we try to go to all the races and try to race really hard and win," she said of the team's racing tactics. "Our team doesn't focus on just one race, we just race hard where we can and we encourage all the girls to do the same."
Where to for women's cycling?
With women's cycling gaining greater public and mainstream media attention through events such as The Women's Tour and La Course by Tour de France, Scrymgeour explained how she thinks the sport can continue its growth.
"I'm kind of hoping for a big bang that can really help women's cycling and La Course can definitely be such an event. But what women's cycling needs [to grow] is a big concerted effort by all," she said.
"I don't know what that is at the moment, I have some ideas, but it's always hard to sell that sponsorship but we've seen other sports such as golf and tennis succeed. But with a concerted effort to grow the women's side of things it works and I hope that happens in cycling."
For cycling as a whole, attracting and securing financial support and sponsorship is proving difficult as the recent example of Belkin suggests, although rather than despair over the situation, Scrymgeour sees opportunity.
"There is a lot happening and I've said it a few times, but there is definitely a buzz about women's cycling at the moment. If everybody keeps pushing in their own way, the sport can definitely grow."
While applauding Tracey Gaudry's appointment to the vice president of the UCI and for her role in furthering women's cycling, Scrymgeour believes that the UCI is not the be-all-end-all of furthering professional cycling.
"I think that it's only a new position for Tracey but she is going to be great; and for women's cycling, it's great to have someone in there trying to push the boundaries and trying to fight for women's cycling every step of the way," Scrymgeour said.
"It's not the UCI and Tracey that has to step up but it's across the board. We are already seeing it, we're seeing a lot of advocacy groups and a lot people trying to grow the sport of women's cycling in different ways, whether that be through brands who are focusing on creating products for women or people creating rides for women to get more women in bikes."
And how to secure a future for women's cycling that avoids a period of boom and bust? For Scrymgeour the solution lays in building a platform from the base up.
"I think that the grass roots are important — getting more women on bikes and building a fan base.
"It's not just the pro cyclists at the top level, they'll always be racing their little hearts out even if they aren't earning money, but what's going to grow the sport is having depth and a fan base that is able to watch racing."
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