19 June 2013
Two teams have dominated the upper levels of NorCal women’s bicycle racing for the past couple years. They are Metromint Cycling and a Nicely-run outfit.
This may change soon as the Leopard-Sapporo bring along a new women’s team.
Team Director and Halo Sports Group’s Martin Santos admitted “I hope I don’t put a bullseye on my head but those are the two teams I am going after.”
Leopard-Sapporo first appeared in the NCNCA this year and, despite doubters, the men have made an impact. They lead the Elite 3 Team points, sit second in Elite 4, and are second in Overall Team Points.
A mid-year announcement for a new road racing team is odd. Nevertheless, it will become exciting to watch Leopard-Sapporo attempt the same in women’s bicycle racing.
“I started out with a men’s team,” said Santos. “As you can see, we’re highly successful. Now that I’ve established that, I’ve shifted my focus over to the women’s side. All along I’ve wanted to have a women’s team but I couldn’t do both at the same time.
“I really feel women should have equal footing in the sport. There’s just not enough attention paid them. I’m glad of the NCNCA Women’s series this year. We’ll try to compete in some of those races. Since this year is already half-way done, we’re building the team for next year.”
Jane Despas will be the team’s leader with a roster to include:
Santos was holding his cards close to his chest but did suggest he may bring on another pair of riders. Should his off-the-record comments hold true, these signings will strengthen the team and could raise eye-brows.
The team’s focus will include the Cal Cup, the NCNCA Women’s Series, and the NRC. “Jane Despas has discussed the larger races [but the] focus is mostly on the road,” continued Santos.
“We are going to have ‘cross racers. Anna Lindstrom is a Finnish ‘Cross Champion and the former Virginia State Champion is Laurel Larsen.
“The goal we want is to eventually get on the NRC calendar [by developing] women we have now and bringing some on board to be competitive in that category.
“When you look at the road races, it’s really Pinnacle and Metromint dominant [this year]. I feel somebody has to break that dominance. I think [the Leopard-Sapporo Women's Team] will be a force to be reckoned with.”
As for team sponsors beyond Leopard Cycles and Sapporo Beer, Santos indicates Skeddadle, MRI Nutrition, iRT Wheels, Vittoria Tyres, and Shimano are on board.
New summer kits for Leopard-Sapporo arrive toward the end of June. Sometime in July, starting perhaps at the Little City Stage Race, the team will appear kitted-out in full force.
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