There are two races taking place this weekend, and despite all the tales of vanishing teams only two squads are doubling up, Lotto, who we covered a few weeks back, and Norwegian based Hitec Products UCK. Hitec weren’t perhaps the most prominent team in the peloton last year, but when you look at the story behind them it’s quite incredible that they were even on the start line at all. Ullensaker Cykleklub (that’s where the UCK bit in the name comes from), a long-standing amateur Norwegian cycling club joined up with Hitec Products who make solid industrial widgets that help pull up oil from the bottom of the North Sea and they put together a plan to win the Olympic gold medal in London. I’m trying my best to avoid the sort of cheap snidey remarks that pass for Norway-Sweden rivalry here at the PdC, but just how much has the success of the Swedish women in recent years spurred them on. And if you’re still sniggering then ask yourself how long did it take your local bike club to agree just on where to hold its annual dinner?
2009 started out very low key, with a team line-up that looks as if it largely came from the club, but then in May they made two big signings, Thijs Rondhuis ("the man behind the success of one of the worlds best women cycling teams, DSB Bank, and also the former trainer of world champion and olympic champion Marianne Vos" according to their own press release) as DS from 2010 and Swedish rider Sara Mustonen as team leader. Sara may not be one of the better known riders in the peloton, but she is a genuine contender for top tens and podium places in stage races, and if the rest of her team can work just that little bit harder then who knows.
This winter the team was tightened up a lot, and to emphasise the fact that this is a development team with a long term plan some very promising young riders were brought in. The oldest of those was 23 year old Frøydis Wærsted, of whom the Norwegian Federations' Sports Manager, Steffen Kiaergaard, says, "Frøydis has lived an anonymous existence in Norwegian cycling since she left the junior class four years ago, but is perhaps the most talented girl we have. She is the U23-athlete that performs best in the tougher races. is the one who responds to the international level best - especially in hilly terrain."
Then there is Nathalie Lamborelle, the 22 year old two time Luxembourg champion. Just four months younger than her is Lisa Brennauer, but already starting on her fourth season in international cycling. She got a couple of podium places last year in the Albstadt-Frauen-Etappenrennen and the Giro della Toscana but never managed to force herself into the Nurnberger team for the top races. The signings conclude with four 19 year olds, Martine Amundsen and Emilie Moberg from Norway, Austrian Jacqueline Hahn and Dane Maria Grandt Petersen, thee junior Time Trial world champion of 2008. For them, 2010 is going very much to be a learning season
So who should you be looking out for? If Sara Mustonen is riding then she is team captain, no questions. Otherwise they seem to think very highly of Line Foss as a climber. Her results to date aren’t particularly striking but she is another who came late to the sport, and could benefit a lot by being on a stronger team than she has to date. Lisa Brennauer made her debut in the German national team in the recent Tour of Qatar and could be another whose time is coming. Ok, lets be blunt. Hitec doesn’t have the strongest front line attack, but right now it doesn’t need to be the strongest, just strong enough to stretch the kids a bit. Don’t be surprised if they have an anonymous sort of season as far as results go, but then don’t be surprised if they seem to burst out of nowhere in 2011 and 2012.