By Kirsten Robbins in Redlands, California
The Value Act Capital (VAC) women's professional cycling team is ready to take on the Redlands Bicycle Classic set to begin on Thursday, March 26. The event is the first of a four-part Women's Prestige Cycling Series (WPCS) highlighted on the team's North American race calendar.
Lisa Hunt, directeur sportif, has placed an emphasis on the 2009 WPCS. The series will start with the Redlands Bicycle Classic and move on to Arkansas' Joe Martin Stage Race held in May, Minnesota's Nature Valley Grand Prix held in June and Oregon's Cascade Cycling Classic held in July. Katharine Carroll, a former Aaron's rider who is now racing for the Tibco Professional women's team, won the overall title in 2008.
"Redlands is always important for us," said Hunt, who held a one week training camp for the 10-rider team in Hieldsburg, California. "We strongly support the Women's Prestige Cycling Series and it is always a challenging event."
According to Hunt, tough economic times caused several strong women's teams to fold at the end of the 2008 season. However, it presented an opportunity for her to strengthen the roster. "It's a disappointment that there were so many talented riders out there who couldn't find teams," Hunt said. "But there is Columbia-High Road, Webcor-Builders, Colavita-Sutter Home and Tibco among other teams and the competition is really going to be solid. I think we will see a lot of composite teams and regional teams coming out, too. It will still be a very aggressive year."
The squad's roster includes Sharon Allpress, Nicole Evans, Robin Farina, Leah Goldstein, Kristin McGrath, Martina Patella, Chrissy Ruiter, Kristin Sanders, Emily Zell along with Courtenay Brown, the team's only professional triathlete. "We have a very strong stage race squad and I think we can do very well at Redlands this weekend," Hunt said. "We have the potential to podium. I'm really excited about the season because these girls ride really well together."
VAC will field a roster at the Dana Point Grand Prix, Tour of the Gila, Joe Martin, Tulsa Tough, Liberty Classic, Nature Valley Grand Prix, Manhattan Beach, Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, Cascade Classic, USAC National Road Championships, Presbyterian and Hanes Park, Marion Classic, Chris Thater, USAC National Criterium Championships and San Francisco Twilight.