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Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12 join women's peloton

Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12 will be the USA's newest women's team set to enter the peloton this year. The team will be managed by reigning World and Olympic Time Trial Champion Kristin Armstrong with the aim at developing talent on the road and track with an eye toward the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The squad will consist of a UCI-registered track team which will target the World Cup and World Championships as well as an elite road team which will compete in the USA's National Racing Calendar while allowing riders to join the US National Team for international events in Europe.

One of the most decorated female cyclists in the history of the sport, Armstrong announced her retirement from professional cycling after her win at the 2009 UCI Time Trial World Championships held in Mendrisio, Switzerland last September. She will now dedicate the next chapter of her career to the development of women's cycling in her home country; partly through the Kristin Armstrong Cycling Academy and also in her position at the helm of the newly formed team.

"Kristin will be our team director and consultant," General Manager Nicola Cranmer told Cyclingnews. "Kristin's dedication to development riders is very apparent. She is working on a number of projects outside of the team while she is riding the wave of her Olympic and World Championship success."

Focus on developing riders

The new squad is a full makeover of the successful ProMan-Hit Squad, a California-based team that got its start in 2006 under the direction of Cranmer. It has placed a heavy emphasis on the development of young American riders. The team's management have vowed to continue supporting junior level talent, but will now turn much of its attention to the development of the elite riders on the World and Olympic platform.

"Serendipity played a small part in this process, but a great deal of hard work and support from many played the biggest role," Cranmer said. "My [role in the] process began four years ago when I started a regional team. In the teams second year we became a UCI track trade team. Fast-forward four years and there are certainly some big changes ahead of us.

"Kristin Armstrong approached me during Cascade Classic," she continued. "She was interested in the fact we were supporting junior riders and giving them opportunity to race with the elite riders. We chatted at length and determined how we could work together.

"Things moved pretty quickly after that. We identified that World Championships and the Olympics would be the focus of the team. Once we announced Kristin's affiliation, we received many race resumes from around the world from women and young girls looking for an opportunity to work with one of the most successful American female riders of all time."

Olympic-bound American talent

Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12 has hand picked a 10-woman roster that will be led by former US National Champion Mara Abbott, who joins the team from Columbia-HTC. Abbott, a former swimmer and student at Whitmore College brings a lot of experience to the team. Her stellar resume includes a podium at the Montreal World Cup, two stage wins and a 2nd place overall at the women's Giro d'Italia, as well as overall victory at the Tour of the Gila, one of the toughest stages races in North America.

"I am thrilled to have her on the team and she rounds out the roster with her climbing abilities," Cranmer said. "Our program offers a little more latitude for riders to script their own season under the guidance of Kristin Armstrong. Mara is very keen to mentor the younger athletes that work with the programme. She will continue to race a strong European and domestic schedule."

The remaining roster includes some of the nation's gifted and hardworking athletes that include Lauren Tamayo and Katharine Carroll, who join the team from Tibco, Cari Higgins, Kristin McGrath, Sinead Miller, Shelley Olds and Alisha Welsh. Junior riders include Coryn Rivera, 17, and 16-year-old Ruth Winder.

Rivera is one of several junior athletes who have benefited from the team's guidance over the past three years. Rivera is a 25-time US national champion who has displayed her versatility in road, cyclo-cross and track. In 2009, she enjoyed a breakthrough season, winning races at the elite/professional level in Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, San Rafael Twilight and the Cascade Cycling Classic stage four criterium.

Extended staff members who will work closely with Cranmer and Armstrong include Craig Upton, who will serve as co-directeur, and Mike Tamayo. Tamayo is currently the directeur sportif of the United Healthcare Men's Professional Cycling Team and will serve Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12 as a consultant.

"Mike is one of the few men deep in the sport that truly understands women's cycling," Cranmer said. "Mike founded the extremely successful Victory Brewing Team and recognizes the challenges of women's cycling. I am very grateful to be able to consult with him."

In 2010, Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12 will primarily focus on preparing its riders for track and road UCI World Cups, World Championships and eventually the summer Olympic Games, to be held in London, England in 2012. The preparation schedule will include a mixture of European racing and National Racing Calendar (NRC) events. Despite the team's broad schedule Cranmer says there will be plenty of time for the riders to recover in between.

"We have the same relationship with USA Cycling as any other team," Cranmer said. "What is unique is our approach. If one of our riders meets the criteria to receive an invite to race in Europe on the National team we make that a priority. If we were to prioritize our races it would look like this: A=European races, B=NRC and C=Regional. The A races are the top priority."

"I understand the difficulty faced by women's teams that are primarily funded by US-based and US-market focused companies, who expect to see results here," she said. "It's a challenge for them to release riders for a National team schedule when they have sponsorship obligations.

"We've made it clear to our sponsors that our goal is not to win the NRC but to position our riders where they can gain the most exposure to the most challenging racing with the goals of World Championships and ultimately the Olympics. When travelling overseas, the athletes, whether racing for the US National team or their trade team will still promote and represent the sponsor's brands."

Programme anything but peanuts

Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12's draft North American schedule so far includes the Tour of the Gila, Philadelphia Liberty Classic, Nature Valley Grand Track, US Elite Road Nationals, Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, San Rafael Twilight, Cascade Cycling Classic and Elite Track Nationals.

International events listed on the Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12 race calendar coincide with US National Team projects and include the Tour of Qatar, Tour of New Zealand, UCI World Track Championships, Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio, Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Drentse 8 van Dwingeloo, Unive Ronde van Drenthe, Novilon Eurocup Ronde van Drenthe, GP Liberazione, Grand Prix de Suisse, Grand Prix Elsy Jacobs, GP Mameranus, UCI Junior World Track Championships and the 2010 UCI Elite Road World Championships.

Peanut Butter & Co.TWENTY12 team sponsors include Fuji Bikes, SRAM, Nature Made, ProMan, JL Racing, Clif Bar, Catlike and Northwave. Title sponsor Peanut Butter & Co. is the most recent addition to the team's support base.

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.