Following last season’s central London launch, Matrix Fitness – Vulpine headed to the home of British Cycling – Manchester – and specifically to Popup Bikes to introduce the 2014 team.
A new, individual and up-and-coming venue on the cycling scene, Popup provided everything needed to launch an exciting new line-up for the coming season, while the Manchester streets provided the perfect backdrop for amazing photography to document the occasion (courtesy of Andy Whitehouse), as the team once again looked to produce something out of the ordinary
The 2014 line-up brings together many different influences. Leading the team in a mentor role is European cyclocross champion, Helen Wyman. Having ridden three World Road Championships and won Jersey classifications in UCI ranked stage races, she offers the road experience required to step up to new challenges, including the Women’s Tour.
For the first time in several years, the team includes an overseas rider; Holland’s Sigrid Jochems. A leading sprinter on the European scene, Sigrid is returning to the sport after four years absence while she pursuing a gymnastics career.
The British Cycling Olympic Development Program is well represented with Mel Lowther, returning for a second year, and Bethany Hayward; a natural climber who will be looking to represent Team GB at the World Junior Championships in 2014. The team feels it has a solid future with these two emerging talents.
Harriet Owen ©AndyWhitehouse
Returning riders Jessie Walker, Harriet Owen, and Jo Tindley are re-joined by Penny Rowson who briefly departed the team in 2013 but comes back with renewed determination to reach the highest heights of the sport. Louise Borthwich, last year’s stand out rider on the domestic scene also joins, and alongside Harriet – who is now a full-time cyclist – will make a formidable attacking line-up as the team targets the UK’s biggest races.
The final rider to come on board for the 2014 season is Para-cyclist, Lora Turnham, riding with her tandem pilot Corrine Hall, who in her own right is a current National Champion on the track. In 2013, this duo stormed to the World Title in the road Time Trial, and plan to take on three events in this year’s World Track Championships.
“We have a real mix; different skills, different personalities, even different disciplines, but we are very much one team. This group has so much talent it will be a real disappointment if we don’t make the step up to professional status in 2015. That’s the goal. We are already firmly working on 2015” commented Team Manager, Stefan Wyman. “This season we have a new set of sponsors, integrating with long-term partners like Matrix Fitness and Velocite, and everyone is motivated to make the step up. We want to be at the newly formed Tour de France event in 2015, along with other key events. However this year all of our focus is on the Women’s Tour. We need to step up, present ourselves in the best manner possible, and hopefully surprise a few people with our results.”
The launch event itself centered on a RollaPaluza competition; with participants battling it out on a pair of custom-built rollers connected to a huge dial, with split-second digital timing over a simulated 500m distance, at speeds in excess of 50mph. The action was accompanied by Rollapaluza’s own Caspar Hughes as DJ, music and cheering crowds. It was perhaps no surprise that Team sprinter, Harriet Owen, won the main event.
The team Q&A, introduced by Chris Garrison, Bontrager UK, was dominated by talk of the Women’s Tour, but it was clear from the 100+ crowd that there is a thirst for knowledge on the sport, with an ever increasing number of cycling fans prepared to come out and support women’s racing.
One question: “What will it be like to race against Vos?” was met with this response from Wyman: “Vos is amazing for the sport and she has been for about eight years now. She has really raised the level of women’s cycling, but there are others like Emma Johanson, Lizzie Armitstead, and Lucy Garner who will go very well in the Tour so I don’t think it will be a one woman show. She will try and get wins for her team as much as for herself. We won’t be going there to just make up the numbers. If I thought that I would have politely rejected the offer. We go there with real ambition, so it’s realistic for us to score a top ten in a stage, which will be incredible for a team of our size. We are not going to celebrate just finishing, we want to achieve, and at this level it’s all about one member of the team getting a result.”
The team now heads off to Limoux in the South of France, where they have just over two weeks together before returning to the UK for the Tour of Reservoir – the first team event of the season.
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