The Specialized-lululemon cycling team will return for 2013 with the same title sponsors but with a slightly shaken-up roster. The UCI women's team that rose last year from the ashes of the former HTC-Highroad program will have to get along without the services of Olympians Amber Neben and Clara Hughes but will retain team leaders Evelyn Stevens and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg.
Eight riders will return from the 2012 squad. Stevens and sprint speedster Teutenberg will be joined by returning all-arounders Ally Stacher, Loren Rowney, Ellen van Dijk, Katie Colclough, Lisa Brennauer and Trixi Worrack. Leaving for other teams are Neben, Chloe Hosking, Emilia Fahlin and Charlotte Becker. Hughes is retiring.
The team will add three new riders in Carmen Small from Optum Pro Cycling, Taylor Wiles from Exergy-Twenty12 and track specialist Gillian Carleton from the Canadian national team. The 11-rider roster is down from 13 in 2012. Team owner and general manager Kristy Scrymgeour said that's to be expected coming off an Olympic year.
"We'll probably do a few less races because of that," she said. "But we've got a bit more freedom in choosing what races we want to do."
Despite having two less riders to throw into the mix, Scrymgeour was nevertheless excited about the core group of returning riders and the team's new additions. Wiles, 23, has been a solid professional for the past two seasons on the Twenty12 squads that were built around two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong. Wiles has also gained significant international experience with the US national team.
"She's super young, but she had a really good Exergy Tour and a really good end of the season in Europe," Scrymgeour said.
Carleton, 22, was part of the Canadian track team that won Olympic bronze in the 3,000 meters. She is relatively new to road racing, but Scrymgeour said she sees tremendous potential for the rider who placed second at the Exergy Tour prologue and fifth in the time trial.
"She hasn't done a lot of road racing, but she's very young and she's already quite successful on the track," Scrymgeour said. "It's a little bit of a risk taking someone that new to the road, but I've got a really good feeling about her."
Small, 32, is coming off her best-ever season as leader of the Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies team. She won the overall at the Nature Valley Grand Prix and took second overall at the Cascade Cycling Classic. She also grabbed an international win at the Classica Citta di Padova. Small, who turned pro in 2007 with the Aaron's team, was on the long team for the 2012 Olympics but did not make the final cut. Scrymgeour said she's hoping the veteran rider will help provide leadership for Specialized-lululemon next season.
"She actually is really quite a good leader, so we're bringing her in as a bit of a leader in the team," Scrymgeour said. "She's also a great climber, so she should be good help for Evie [Stevens]. She's a great personality as well, and this year she had her best year ever. I actually think she was toying with retiring after this year's Olympics, but because she had such a good year I really think she's got a lot more improvement in her, so I look forward to seeing what she can do."
The newcomers will join a program that won more than 60 races in 2012 and featured no less than nine 2012 Olympians. Scrymgeour said the team would likely have a calendar similar to last season, with a focus on international races but splitting time in the North American markets of its sponsors. She said the team would also focus on defending its 2012 title in the inaugural team time trial world championships.
"I think it's a key event in women's cycling to really showcase the sport," she said. "It's just a fantastic event, and it's something the girls aspire to. It's one of those things where they all want to be on the team. So we want to defend that title."
Beyond that, Scrymgeour wants the team to approach next season the same way it did last year. "What we really want to do is go into every race and give it a go," she said. "They just went into every race with a bunch of enthusiasm, and it paid off. That's the way we approach our racing, and that's the big thing."
Outside of racing the team hopes to increase its mission to help grow the sport of women's cycling and to get more women riding bikes. Additionally, the team will continue to work together with Right To Play to raise money for its program in Rwanda via an online auction of team equipment.
Specialized-lululemon will gather in Portugal for the first two weeks of December for its first training camp, and racing begins not long after that. Scrymgeour said the recent talent shuffling and the creation of at least one new team should make for good racing.
"I think if you look all across the board, it's a pretty good playing field," Scrymgeour said. "The talent seems to have spread out amongst all the teams, which makes it pretty exciting."
Specialized-lululemon 2013 Roster
Ellen van Dijk