, building an empire

Tales from the peloton, March 6, 2007

Now armed with a UCI pro licence, the sky's the limit for the women's team. Cyclingnews' Jonathan Devich caught up with the crew at a recent team camp to find out what's driving the squad to all-new heights.

Over the past few weeks at a secret base in Tucson, Arizona the women's pro cycling team has been putting the final touches on what has become its most powerful and experienced group of riders yet.

The team is the dream child of director Scott Gerrie - you might remember Gerrie's name from the women's Biovail squad from the last couple of years. He started as a team director seven years ago when a group of riders approached him about putting together a team. He began with a men's masters team but then saw the opportunity in women's cycling.

"I felt at that time that it was going to be maybe a little easier to get sponsorship money selling a women's program because there were so few of them," Gerrie explained with a laugh. "I don't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing but I stuck to my guns and once I knew what side I was going to do, the vision was to go UCI at some point."

This year, with as title sponsor, Gerrie has been able to bring the team up to UCI status. With the new status in the bag a campaign in Europe is on the horizon.

"We're going in the spring just to get the team used to racing in Europe and to get used to racing together in Europe," he said. "June1st is when Olympic qualifying comes up, so from June to May 2008 the more points we can get as a team, and as individual riders, will help get spots for the Olympics."

Scott went on to explain his overall goals for the team: "I want to see my riders go to the Olympics and I will do what it takes to get them there. Ultimately that's what they're going for, World Championships and Olympics. So why shouldn't it be my goal?"

Heading up those spots for their respective Olympic teams will be Canadian riders Gina Grain, Anne Samplonius and Errine Willock; Jessica Philips for the United States and Meshy Holt for New Zealand. The entire team will split its location in spring, with some riders staying mostly in North America while others will reside in Belgium for the European campaign.

When asked who might lead the team throughout the season Gerrie reassured that anyone on the team can do well: "Anybody on this team has the ability to win a race. I think the leadership is going to be spread over a few riders."

Former US National Road Race Champion Jessica Phillips echoed Scott's words. "This team is like a bunch of friends coming together," said Phillips. "Most of us have raced together before so we know each other and work well together."

Seasoned veteran Anne Samplonius also agreed, saying: "We've got some of the best girls coming together and with the best chemistry. At the camp we've all gotten along very well and know what job we have to do."

This all-for-one attitude has also been reinforced by title sponsor Lee Deitz of Gerrie stated that when he asked Deitz what he expected of him he said: "I want this team to be the best, I don't really care what it takes but I want it to be the best in the world."

With that said, Scott Gerrie has set out o build the cycling empire brick-by-brick. After his start over seven years earlier with a masters squad, graduating to a Canadian women's trade team and now a UCI women's pro squad, Gerrie is showing that perseverance and planning can indeed pay off.

The riders will keep Cyclingnews readers up to date with their exploits throughout 2007, with the team joining our list of diarists for the year. Keep an eye out for the first installment which is coming soon.

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Jonathan Devich/

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