By Shane Stokes
Team Columbia manager and coach Petra Rossner is aiming for another very strong season in 2009, saying that the team will continue to target wins in each of the races it competes in, while also nurturing its young talent and stressing the value of teamwork.
"We had a really good season and we know it is going to be hard to top that, but we will aim to do that," the affable German told Cyclingnews at the team's training camp in Majorca, Spain. "We want to win the bike races, that same goal that remains from last year. We are also focused on developing young riders, giving them the best conditions we can provide. Also, we want to make sure the team is a team – that is also the main focus."
The Columbia women's team had a season to be proud of in 2008, with the squad winning over half of the races it entered, taking four world cup victories plus the overall title in that series. Ina Yoko Teutenberg clocked up 24 victories, more than any other woman, while the team also nabbed four stages in the women's Giro d'Italia, five at the Route de France plus the overall title, three stages and the overall in the Tour of Montreal, six stages and the overall in the Giro della Toscana...the list goes on and on, with a total of 68 victories clocked up.
In addition to that, Luise Keller, Linda Villumsen, Emilia Fahlin and Alex Wrubleski are not only amongst the most talented young riders in the bunch (their ages ranging between 20 and 24 years) but they also won national titles in 2008 and are sporting distinctive jerseys this season.
Rossner is, to be frank, quite proud of what they achieved. And she's hungry for more. "We won four World Cups out of ten and that is a lot," she stated. "We will keep aiming to win and, as I said, to focus on the young riders.
"It was tricky in some ways last year, it being an Olympic year. We had so many nations in the women's team, and the national team requirements for the qualification for the Olympic Games were sometimes in the way. But we will not have that this year and so we will have a good chance to build up young talents so that they can learn from the more experienced competitors.
"As for the more experienced riders, they will get a lot of support from the team. If everybody is racing together well we don't care who is winning, that is the goal. If we can manage that, I believe we can be very successful."
The team has become smaller in 2009 and will feature just eleven riders. Rossner said that good balance is very important and that a lot of thought went into the makeup of the squad.
"We have got two more talents on the team....we have Ellen Van Dijk, only 21 years of age, and Alex Wrubleski, 24, from Canada. That will be the perfect fit. Apart from results, we also choose them by characteristics; it is important that they fit in."
It's a very important consideration when looking for new riders. "I always compare it with a basket of apples. If you have one rotten apple, it can ruin the whole basket. We try to make sure that we don't have a rotten apple in the squad as we know that one can disturb the whole team. This is what we really, really don't need, and this is what would really stop us from winning. As a result, that was the main focus when we picked the riders."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews.com
- German road race champion Luise Keller
- Luise Keller , 24, won two stages plus the overall classification in the Route de France last season.
- Swedish road race champion Emilia Fahlin, starting another year with the team.
- Another national champion: Linda Villumsen is wearing the Danish colours.
- Luise Keller shows off her own national jersey.
- Austrlian Kate Bates prior to a training ride.
- Dutchwoman Ellen Van Dijk is new to the team this year.
- Van Dijk won the world scratch race title in Manchester last season.
- Kate Bates, Ellen Van Dijk and Emilia Fahlin immediately before the start of their training.
- Petra Rossner is in charge of the women's team this year.