Vera Bradley Foundation Women’s Pro Cycling team announced that it will no longer exist in 2011. According to its directeur sportif Lisa Hunt, the foundation that supports Breast Cancer Awareness had a hard time envisioning a cycling team as a long term investment.
“They were extremely pleased with the team and the success and fundraising effort,” Hunt told Cyclingnews. “The executive director of the foundation really wanted to continue but it was a decision at Vera Bradley Corporate and what they felt was that the sponsorship didn’t really fit in with their long-term strategic plans for the company.
“We loved it and it was a great partnership and I think the world of the company and the organization. I am very sad that it is not going to continue,” she added. “Unfortunately things like this happen. Not everyone is a fan.”
The team grew from the former Value Act Capital Cycling Team with a roster that included former national time trial champion Alison Powers, Toni Bradshaw, Robin Farina, Leah Goldstein, Lauren Hall, Alison Testroete, Alex Rhodes, Anne Samplonius, Carrie Cash and Carla Swart. It was recently announced that Powers found a home with TIBCO-To the Top and Swart will be joining HTC-Columbia in 2011.
“I’ve done my best to be an advocate for the riders and try and get them on other teams,” Hunt said. “As part of the annual process every rider goes about looking to see if they want to continue with the same team or move on to another team.”
“This year is a challenge because there are two teams going away,” she added. “Things like this happen and new teams are coming up. These are incredible women and they will find ways to continue in the sport. It is in my best interest that they do find teams.”
Webcor Builders Pro Cycling also announced that it has ended its seven-year program due to a lack of funding from the title sponsor. Despite the double loss this season, Hunt believes that women’s professional cycling is becoming stronger especially with the current
professional men’s teams like GEOX and Garmin-Transitions adding a women’s team to their programs.
“It is always tough and the same thing happened two years ago when Cheerwine and Aarons folded," Hunt said. “What tends to happen is that the women’s teams go in cycles and with losses come opportunities. I really think that in a year like 2011, before the Olympic year, you are going to find new teams pop up. I think we are on the cusp of a very strong women’s movement. I think the time has come and more men’s teams are recognizing the strength of women’s teams. I think there will be an increase in women’s teams.”