Kristy Scrymgeour Interview: “There’s a new energy coming into women’s cycling”
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Kristy Scrymgeour Interview: “There’s a new energy coming into women’s cycling”

by Ben Atkins at 5:42 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
Specialized-Lululemon manager excited to get the new team underway in 2012

Specialized LululemonAfter the sad announcement that HTC-Highroad was to fold at the end of this year, the good news came that the women’s side of the team was to continue as Specialized-Lululemon. Highroad’s Marketing and Communications Director Kristy Scrymgeour will step up to become the new team’s manager; she spoke to VeloNation this week from the team’s training camp in California.

“It’s been great actually. We’ve been here a week now – a bit over a week – and it’s really exciting,” she said this week. “Specialized and Lululemon are really excited to be working on this project and the girls are all excited, and we’ve got some great partners as well, other than Specialized and Lululemon. Most partners have stayed on with us that used to be at Highroad, plus we’ve got new ones. So, I’m really excited about it; I think it’s going to be great.”

The two men’s and women’s teams at Highroad had been run alongside one another since team owner Bob Stapleton took over the scandal-hit T-Mobile team after the 2006 Tour de France. The women will be going it alone once more in 2012, which has both good and bad sides to it.

“It’s kind of special now,” Scrymgeour explained. “It was together with the men’s team for five years, and that’s great, you always get all the resources and we’ve got a pretty good solid foundation, for how to run the team. But now it’s a little bit special because this is just about the women and you can do things in a little bit of a different way; and it’s quite exciting.”

As a rider, ‘Scrymo’ rode for a number of top teams, including the Saturn team in the USA, taking some big results including the 1999 Australian time trial championships. Following her retirement, she worked as a journalist for a few years, before joining Highroad in 2007. Although she takes a step up from marketing and PR to manager though, her role will not be hugely different.

“Not really,” she said, “I used to work pretty closely with Bob and all of our partners, so I was there at marketing and activation, so I had good relationships with a lot of our partners already. It’s a little different from what I was doing before, there’s just maybe a little bit more responsibility.

Specialized Lululemon“But that’s good, I don’t mind that.”

Although Scrymgeour will no longer be working for Stapleton, his love of women’s cycling means that the Highroad owner will not be walking away altogether.

“It’s been fantastic working with Bob for the last few years and he’s also very supportive of this project going forward” she explained. “Highroad is a sponsor because we’ve been able to take advantage of using a lot of the stuff that was left over…”

“He’s been supportive of women’s cycling from the get-go; as soon as he got into cycling. Some of the riders that are on this team were riding for him way back then, so he’s obviously very excited that this was able to continue as well.”

Continuity in the team, but some big changes too

Ina Yoko TeutenbergWhile most of the HTC-Highroad team will be carried forward into Specialized-Lululemon – including directors Ronny Lauke and Jens Zemke – there are some riders leaving. Dutch rouleur Adrie Visser departs for the expanding Skil-1t4i team, and US rider Amanda Miller returns to Team Tibco, but the biggest loss to the team will be newly crowned World time trial champion Judith Arndt. The German veteran is heading to the new GreenEDGE-AIS team after riding for Highroad since 2006, and her absence will surely be felt

“Judith’s obviously one of the best riders in the World, and she was a great part of this team, so it’s a little bit different without her,” Scrymgeour acknowledged. “But the whole programme has a different feel, we’ve got some new riders who have really added to the programme and have really fitted in straight away.

“We have [Canadian] Clara Hughes,” she explained. “We have two new Germans: Trixi Worrack and Lisa Brennauer, and a new young Aussie: Loren Rowney, who we hadn’t announced before. Overall I think that it’s sad to lose Judith, but I think what we’ve got right now – moving forward into 2012 – is a really great group of women.

“I think 2012 is going to be our best year.”

Historically, Highroad was always a team that raced for each other; while the lion’s share of the team’s results were taken by big stars like German super-sprinter Ina Teutenberg and Arndt, every rider was given a chance to shine. This is set to continue going forward.

“Absolutely,” said Scrymgeour, “I think last year every single girl on the team won a race. For a couple of them it was winning a team time trial, but everybody got a victory. That’s fantastic and I think that we recognise that we’ve got some superstar riders, but as you can see from the last few years, everybody gets their chance; if they’re willing to take the chance, then they’ll get it. That’s what I believe in and that’s the way we work.

“That’s the way we’ll continue, and everybody is excited by that,” she added.

Aiming for the World team time trial championships

For a team like Specialized-Lululemon, whose time trialling talent has been stiffened by the arrival of Hughes and Worrack – despite the departure of Arndt – one of the big targets for the year will be the new World championships team time trial in Limburg, Netherlands, in September.

Specialized LululemonAs the winners of the Swedish team time trial round of the World Cup this season, Specialized-Lululemon will obviously start as one of the hot favourites.

“That’s going to be a really exciting event,” said Scrymgeour. “I think it’s something that a lot of teams will put a lot of effort into, because it’s unique. You’ve never had a World championships before for pro teams, and we’re going to definitely try and win that one…

“We checked out the course last week – a couple of weeks ago – and it’s pretty interesting,” she added. “We’ve going to put a lot of effort in to make sure we know it, and give it every shot.”

News of the demise of Garmin-Cervélo is “pretty sad”

The women’s sport was rocked recently by the announcement that the Garmin-Cervélo team could not afford to fund its women’s race programme, and was effectively folding. As someone involved in the women’s sport, Scrymgeour was naturally saddened by the news of the demise of what once was one of HTC-Highroad’s biggest rivals. She does have some optimism about the riders’ fate though, and about the future of the women’s sport generally.

“I think it’s pretty sad…” she said. “It’s pretty sad for women’s cycling and it was quite late in the piece, so there’s a lot of girls who don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I’ve talked to a lot of them over the last couple of weeks and I think it’s one of those situations; it‘s the end of November and there’s really not that long now before the season starts again.

“So yeah, it’s pretty sad for women’s cycling; but on the other hand, I think they’ll all end up finding a ride; they’re all very good riders,” she added. “We did think about taking a couple in our team too, but I think it’s all worked out for everybody.”

The loss of the team therefore, could well be balanced by forward movement elsewhere in the sport, she thinks.

“There’s new people coming into women’s cycling,” she explained, “like Lululemon; and Specialized is really getting behind it, so I think women’s cycling is just about to go through a period of growth, and hopefully we can help it on its way. All the teams together can hopefully really push women’s cycling forward in the next few years.

“That’s kind of how it’s feeling,” she added, “that this is a good time to grow it, so we will if we can I guess.”

Another sponsor to start a new women’s team is Rabobank, which is – some might say ‘finally’ – putting its considerable resources behind Dutch phenomenon Marianne Vos.

“It’s fantastic,” said Scrymgeour. “She’s really one of the best riders in the World and they’ll get a lot out of her too. I think that’s great that there’s more teams doing that.

“I think I can feel a bit of a new energy coming in women’s cycling and we’ve just got to try to make the most of it.”

Despite the setbacks, women’s cycling is on the way up

International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid said recently that he felt that women’s cycling was enjoying something of a resurgence in investment and funding; largely thanks to the equalisation of the Olympic programme. Many scoffed at the suggestion – largely thanks to the recent demise of Garmin-Cervélo – but this is something that Scrymgeour largely agrees with.

“I do,” she said. “Maybe that’s because we’re here and we’ve got two fantastic sponsors, and we’re all super excited about it all, and together we really want to try and grow women’s cycling. I know there are other really great people in the sport, who want to do the same.

“I have a feeling that this is where we can do it, in the next few years,” she explained. “It’s always hard when you have setbacks, like the Garmin team folding, and then of course last year there were a couple of setbacks with races having to be cancelled, but there’s new races coming on.”

Ellen Van DijkThe history of women’s cycling, she explained, was one of a multitude of setbacks, but the progress over the years has generally been positive.

“There’s always a bit of a two steps forward, one step back,” she said, “but if you really look closely at the last fifteen years of women’s racing, it’s gradually improved. The racing is super; the standard of racing is unbelievably good; now what we just have to do is get people to see that.

“It’s very difficult for people to see it, because it’s not televised very much,” she continued, “so we have to think of strategies to get women’s cycling seen, and get interest in women riding bikes and, with Lululemon, to get more women active through yoga. There’s a lot of power behind that, I think, and I have a good feeling about it.”

With 2012 just around the corner though, the more immediate concern for Specialized-Lululemon is the beginning of the racing season, with riders in action almost immediately.

“We’ve got a couple of Aussies, and they’ll start early with the nationals and a couple of races around the Tour Down Under, but the first race for the team is in Qatar,” Scrymgeour said.

“We’ll be there, and hopefully we can defend that title – Ellen van Dijk won it last year. That’s a big goal for us, to start the season strong.”

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