Organisers of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling have announced the 20 professional women's teams that will contest a three-race battle in southeastern Pennsylvania in early June. At stake is a $34,000 prize purse that includes $5000 for the overall series winner.
Battling for the big payday will be a talented field of six-rider squads that includes three of Europe's top teams, plus the cream of the crop from the American racing scene. As usual the marquee event of the series will be June 8's Liberty Classic, which is celebrating its 15th running on the historic streets of downtown Philadelphia.
The overwhelming favourite to capture Liberty gold will be defending champion and two-time winner Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Team High Road). The German sprinting sensation is on fine form once again, already taking an impressive third at the season opening World Cup in Geelong, Australia. Teutenberg will be backed by the powerful Team High Road squad, sister outfit to the dominant men's team and No. 1 in the most recent World Cup rankings.
"Ina will definitely be our plan A," confirmed Kristy Scrymgeour, High Road's communications manager. "Our main concern is making sure no one gets away on the last trip up Lemon Hill. If we can keep the race together Ina will be hard to beat in a sprint."
High Road also boasts American stars Mara Abbott and Kim Anderson. A year ago, the 22-year-old Abbott was the revelation of pro peloton, winning a stage of the Redlands Classic, the national road race championship, and scoring a silver at the Montreal World Cup. All that happened while she was still devoting time to swimming and college. This year, the young American is fully focused on cycling, with her eyes trained on the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
The biggest threat to High Road will be Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung, and its own fast finisher, Deutschland native Regina Schleicher. Schleicher was world champion on the road in 2005 and won the Liberty Classic a year later. Nürnberger was second in the most recent World Cup standings.
Swiss-based Cervelo-Lifeforce are the newcomers to the Liberty Classic, but that doesn't mean they're coming only for the experience. Led by 2006 world time trial champion Kristin Armstrong, Cervelo-Lifeforce has the best chance of derailing another German blitzkrieg.
Since 1996, only two non-Germans have won this prestigious women's event, the last coming in 2003 when Canadian Lyne Bessette snuck away during the final climb of Lemon Hill and held her advantage all the way to the finish. Armstrong, a non-sprinter who was second in this year's Tour of Flanders, will need a similar scenario to unfold if she's to become the first American to win the Liberty Classic.
Webcor Builders could also make some noise during the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling. The California-based team started 2008 with a bang when team rider Katheryn Mattis scored a breakthrough win at the Geelong World Cup in late February. That victory celebration was muted a week later when Mattis broke her collarbone after crashing at the Tour of New Zealand. Nonetheless, Webcor's international aspirations remain. The 2007 National Racing Calendar team champion spent much of its spring campaign in Europe, helping team leader – and rheumatology doctor – Christine Thorburn pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic Games team.
Women's teams for Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling: Team High Road - Women (GER), Cervelo Lifeforce Pro Cycling Team (SUI), Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung (GER), Webcor Builders Cycling Team (USA), Aaron's Women's Professional Cycling Team (USA), BMW-Bianchi (USA), C3-Sollay.com (USA), Cheerwine Cycling (USA), Colavita/Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light (USA), HPC Powered by Altarum (USA), Hub Racing (USA), Jazz Apple Cycling Team (NZL), Juice Plus+ Women's Cycling Team (USA), PROMAN Racing (USA), Team Advil/Chapstick (USA), Team Kenda Tire (USA), Team Tibco (USA), ValueAct Capital Cycling Team (USA) and Vanderkitten Racing (USA).