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Updated! Garmin-Cervélo women's team announced.... sort of...

Update from Gav! I received an update from Garmin-Cervélo today. According to the team, this list of eight is not officially confirmed. That is, the VeloNation list is based on information from around the internet, and did not come from the team directly. The official team roster will roll out next week.

It's been all quiet on the Garmin-Cervélo women's team front for a while, but we've finally got some news.  And although in the last week, following a mini twitter-campaign that culminated in Gav writing all about it, and finally getting a result, we were promised that news would come out "soon", it's not come via the team's PR, or their website, but via an interview with the fabulously frank Lizzie Armitstead, in Velonation.  You really should read that interview, it's great, but it does suggest some worrying things about the new team.  I'm not sure whether this is the final team iteration, or just the riders we know about, but Velonation list 8 riders who'll be riding for the team for 2011.

From Cervélo 2010:  Lizzie Armitstead, Sharon Laws, Emma Pooley, Iris Slappendel

New to the team for 2011:  Noemi Cantele, Jessie Daams, Lucy Martin, Trine Schmidt

At first it seems like a drop of nearly half the team - but I also wondered if this is just the riders we know are definitely riding - and although I have been worrying about who else there is to sign, at the same time I recognise how hypocritical I am, given that this time last year I was whining about how Cervélo and HTC were too damn strong, and it would be better for the peloton if the talent was more spread around...

Below the jump, I'll tell you a bit more about the implications - and some of the rationale from Gerard Vroomen from twitter.  I'll say one thing about all this - although I, and others, have been grumpy with the radio silence from the Garmin-Cervélo machine, Vroomen himself is fabulous.  I'm just a fan, but he's still tweeted back to me & explained his thoughts, and that's an amazing thing about cycling!

I know that some of you will be thinking that we're insane for expecting any information at all about the women's team, because even the most crazed fangirls among us (me) can't think the women's team will have the same level of importance to the company as the men's.  But if you are thinking that, let me explain some of the context.  From the moment the teams were launched, Cervélo ran the men's and women's teams as part of the same family, siblings, if you like - equal but different.  As HTC were doing, they ran joint team camps, they promoted the team as unified, celebrated the achievements of both sides, and even presented the team website as if they had one team.  They may not have been perfect (it took a while to get the first Beyond the Peloton film for the women, for instance), but as with so many things about Cervélo's first season, they set a new standard for others to aim at, and in doing so, presented a new ideal for fans of the women's race.  So one of the things we're definitely dealing with is an issue of raised expectations, which may help any of you who think we're being harsh understand my point of view.  I'm not comparing to an unrealistic ideal, I'm comparing to the reality from the last two years.  And you also need to remember that for the last few years, we've had what feels like an endless stream for bad news, with teams folding and races collapsing on a regular basis, in the women's peloton.

Cervélo really were a super-team on the women's scene.  With 14 riders, they had enough to send specific teams to races - a scary-fast sprint team for the flat, and the most incredible team of mountain goats for the climbing races - and a frighteningly good mixed team for the big stage races.  They had enough riders like Claudia Häusler to take time off to study, and return for key races, in the same way that the top men can pick and choose their races.  So moving from 14 to a possible 8 would be a big step backwards, and also means that the riders who've had the luxury of specialising would have to move into generic roles - although we saw Emma Pooley riding as sprint lead-out at the Commonwealth Games, it doesn't make sense for a rider of her climbing calibre to be doing that full-time.

But once i got over my initial disappointment, I did look a bit closer, and question whether this really is the final make-up of the team.  Velonation's words were

It's always hard when there is no official news, but we do have Gerard Vroomen.  In response to something I tweeted, he replied to me:

And followed this up with other tweets:

So, it looks better than the article initially suugest:  a team of 10, who, I assume, will be announced in January - and a definite 2-year commitment to the women's side, with Vroomen saying they're here to stay.  And the more I think about his comments, the more I think he's onto something here.  I DID adore the 2009-10 iteration of Cervélo, but it can't be good for the sport that 2 big teams, through reasons on funding and the personalities behind the team, are in another league in terms of resourcing.  And yeah, it may mean that on the weekends where there are competing races - the weekend with Giro del Trentino and RaboSter on at the same time for instance - we'll only see Cervélo at one of them, and some of the sprint or climbing specialists will be disappointed they can't ride that weekend, but we've always thought it was crazy and unnecessary for women's races to run concurrently, because it would only take a little bit of coordination to avoid that, because it's not as though there are races every weekend.  If CycloCross can manage it...

This isn't to say I've forgiven Garmin-Cervélo completely.  As we discussed under the previous article, it wouldn't kill them to at least mention the fact they have a women's team in the press releases about other things, like the team kit.  Again, Vroomen mentions it himself (in a recent article asking him about having World Champion Hushovd in the team, he brought in Emma Pooley's rainbows as well), but that's a personal opinion rather than the team's message about themselves - and reading Armitstead's comments on her perspective on the team transition, my initial concerns that the women's side was an after-thought in the merger seem validated.

The best thing about the Lizzie interview?  How superbly open she is, answering all questions with the same honesty, and although I'm not happy about the position she was put it, she describes it matter-of-factly, and like something that happened & she's moved on from.  She's also very funny, and I especially liked this:

VN: Do you wish he [boyfriend Adam Blythe] were on the Garmin-Cervélo team?

LA: No. Definitely not. We were on the same national team as juniors, and it was just a nuisance.

So, my conclusions?  Things could be worse! And it's back to waiting for some official pronouncements!

I take my hat off to Vroomen (it wasn't even that I was hassling him myself!  He just replied to my random comments!  How cool is that?) and actually, if I really want women's cycling to improve, I need to look at the big picture.  I loved the Cervélo team, and Pooley, Laws, Armitstead and Slappendel are among my favourite riders - but actually, corralling all the talent into one team is not necessarily the best thing for the sport.  Next year, a smaller Garmin-Cervélo battling for wins against HTC, Nederland Bloeit and the new wave of smaller super-teams (Diadora-Pasta Zara, AA and MCipollini-Giodana are the most exciting, but look out for TopSport and Hitec, who are stepping up, and the always formidable Lotto)  just as the beginning, is much better in the long-run.  If Garvélo can just start getting their publicity machine a bit nearer to the old Cervélo standard, I'll be very happy.