Larry Rosa, for Team TIBCO. Used with permission.
Earlier this week Team TIBCO - To The Top announced the signing of three notable international riders, significantly increasing the experience of the squad preparing to enter its eighth year in the women's peleton. The additions are Claudia Häusler (GER) from Orica-AIS and Chantal Blaak (NED) and Shelley Olds (USA), both of AA Drink-Leontien.
The three riders bring a wide range of talents to TIBCO. Häusler is a formidable stage racer with wins in the Tour de l'Aude and Giro Donne. The 2012 season has been quieter for Häusler, but the former German national champion should not be far from the sparkling form she had in 2009 and 2010. Olds is another veteran of the sport and is quickly becoming one of the best bunch sprinters in the women's field. She won the Tour of Chongming Island World Cup this year and also has victories in the USA Criterium Championship and Pan American Cup to her name. Fun fact? Olds is was one of the few people to out-sprint an on-form Marianne Vos this season in a Giro d'Italia Feminine stage. Olds memorably and heartbreakingly flatted out of the winning break in the Olympics Road Race this July with a mere 30 kilometers to race. Finally, Blaak is an up-and-coming rider who finished second at the Ronde van Gelderland one-day race in the Netherlands.
Over the past season TIBCO divided its focus between European and North American races. The team sent squads to the Ladies Tour of Qatar in February before competing in three World Cup races - the Ronde Drenthe, Tour des Flanders, and La Flèche Wallone - as well as several other one-day races in the spring season. In August, TIBCO again crossed the Atlantic to compete in a series of races including the Grand Prix de Plouay World Cup and the Giro della Toscana. On the domestic front, attention turned towards dueling domestic ambitions - overall placings in the USA Crits and National Criterium Calendar (NCC) series and strong showings in stage races such as the UCI-level Exergy Tour in May. Tara Whitten won the Exergy Tour prologue and the team won the overall classification for the NCC.
The signings of Häusler, Blaack, and Olds may portend a shift in focus for the US team. While they will no doubt continue to pursue domestic goals, the pairing of these new riders with international stalwarts Amanda Miller and Megan Guarnier makes for a powerful squad to tackle World Cups and even stage races like the Giro Donne and Tour de France Féminin. Could we see TIBCO field a semi-permanent squad for a full European season? The odds are good.