Team SpiderTech appears to have been squashed, but if this past weekend’s national championships were any indication for Whistler’s Will Routley, there’s no shortage of talent to create another elite Canadian cycling team.
Routley’s former team from the 2011 and 2012 seasons is finished, as founder Steve Bauer told Quebec’s Sportcom last week that he had given up the quest to find the sponsorship needed to take the UCI pro continental squad to the World Tour level and ultimately the Tour de France. Team SpiderTech had been on hiatus for 2013 as Bauer looked to secure additional funds for the following season.
But the old gang was back together in a different form Saturday (June 22), when Routley finished fifth in the men’s Canadian Road Championships road race at St. Georges, Que. Routley was one of four riders from SpiderTech’s 2012 roster that finished in the top five.
“It was just like a reunion, catching up with all my old friends, all guys I used to race with on SpiderTech,” said Routley, who’s riding for Belgium-based pro continental team Accent Jobs-Wanty this season.
“We hit the race hard right from the get-go and it was only a few minutes before there were a dozen of us up the road, and that was the race,” he added. “Seven of us were all a group of friends and former teammates, and that was the final top seven of the race. We pretty much went and beat the crap out of each other for four hours.”
Routley, who won the national road race title back in 2010, was three seconds back of winner Zach Bell at the finish of the 185-kilometre course.
“Finishing in the top five is a nice ride, and it’s good for a pat on the back and shows I was in the mix, challenging to win the race,” he said. “But I’m kind of at the point where it’s either win or lose, and it’s really as simple as that — I didn’t win.”
The news of Team SpiderTech’s demise didn’t seem to surprise Routley.
“I personally thought it was a big challenge to bring the program back,” he said. “It’s very tough to put a team together at that level.”
Routley expressed appreciation that Ray Arbesman, owner of the athletic tape company that sponsored the team, has continued to honour the contracts of SpiderTech riders who were signed for 2013. The way the now-defunct team’s members performed in Quebec on the weekend was an indication for Routley that the athletes are in place for a similar squad to be successful in the future.
“Looking around, I thought that it’s absolutely ridiculous — we need a Canadian team,” he said. “We’ve got the guys, and the girls, at that level, ready to race.
“It’s just a matter of putting together a project, but that’s a huge challenge.”
Routley said it’s been quite different being “the foreign guy” on the team this year with Accent Jobs-Wanty but he’s fitting in well. Some bad luck with injuries and mechanicals have made it tough for him to build any momentum towards strong results, while he’s also adjusting to the different life of a support rider in Europe, which he described as “blue collar.”
“In reality, it’s more like going to work everyday,” he laughed. “I race a lot, and don’t always know my schedule well in advance. The routine is that you get an email that says ‘Show up at this location tomorrow’ and you’re racing the next day. But it happens to be 200 K long and a world-class field, so it’s definitely different from what we’re used to in North America.”
Routley will be around for B.C. Superweek races in July and will re-join his teammates in Europe for the second half of their season. But the 30-year-old is unsure what’s next for him after this year.
“I’ve made good contacts in Europe and I’ve been able to perform well, but I also have missed the camaraderie of being with a really positive group of Canadians and working with colleagues I want to work with in the long-term,” he said.
Whistler’s Ben Chaddock was also in Quebec for the national championships but was unable to defend his national men’s criterium title. Both he and Routley ended up abandoning the crit race held Sunday (June 23).