By Kirsten Robbins
Alexis Rhodes will move to the Webcor Builders Pro Women's Cycling team, after not receiving a new contract with Team Columbia. Rhodes decided to give American racing a shot, signing with the California-based team upon the conclusion of her two-year jaunt with Columbia. According to Webcor's team director, Karen Brems, Columbia team manager Kristy Scrymgeour contacted her regarding the 24-year-old all rounder.
"High Road [Columbia] didn't renew her contract so they called me," Brems said. "She [Scrymgeour] spoke really highly of Alexis. I know it is hard when you have to let a rider go but Kristy found her a good home with us." Rhodes palmarès includes a third place finish in the Australian national time trial championships, eighth place in the Nürnberger World Cup, double stage wins at the 2007 Jayco Bay Cycling Classics, the best young rider jersey at the 2007 Geelong Women's Tour and numerous criterium national titles.
"I saw how strong she was and how hard she worked for the team so it seemed like she was a great fit for us," Brems said, regarding the team's effort to become more well rounded. "I think the combination of her and our sprinter Gina Grain will give us two cards to play in the crits. Stage races continue to be our priority but this year we will have a criterium team stronger than we ever had before."
Signing alongside Rhodes was her AIS teammate Nikki Egyed. Egyed joins the squad from her former Dutch trade team Vrienden van Het Platteland. She is well known for her lengthy breakaway in this year's Varese World Championship. "Nikki is a really strong rider," said Brems. "An all rounder, good climber and she has some good speed. I think she will make a great breakaway rider and brings a lot to our team."
The team bid adieu to their team leader Dr. Christine Thorburn. After five years of team leadership the three-time Olympian has decided to pursue a career in medicine. However, the squad has hired back the bulk of their 2008 strength to include two Beijing Olympians from Canada Gina Grain and Erinne Willock. Returning riders also include Kathryn Curi-Mattis, 2008 Geelong World Cup winner, along with young talents Rebecca Much, Amy Dombroski and Janelle Holcomb.
"Webcor is strong as a company and is back and committed 100 percent," Brems said. "We have a great team, most of it is continuing from 2008. We had great team chemistry and everyone wants to remain a part of that. The younger riders want to learn and improve based on the feedback they receive. And we have such great mentors who are willing to teach the younger riders and lead our programme."
The sport of cycling is facing some tough economic times and some teams are negatively affected by the financial strap while other teams continue to prosper, like Webcor. The financial hardships have forced several women's teams to fold and others to downsize, forcing riders to spread out and look for other opportunities amongst the women's peloton. "It's always better racing when the talent is spread around a little bit," Brems said optimistically. "I think all the teams were forced to get a little smaller this year but things always work out one way or another. Riders may have had to take pay cuts but everyone can still get to the races for the most part. My worry is that with the Tour de Georgia being cut, some of the other races might get cut too."