Monday, October 25, 2010

Nelson Leaves Team Lipstick to Form NJ Venture

Fifteen-year veteran women's cycling and fitness coach Emma Nelson has left Team Lipstick to start her own venture, Team WE of Women's Edge Sports, LLC.

The company is based in New Jersey and has been joined by a business partner Griff Long.

Nelson had been working with Team Lipstick's Laura Cozik who had become the local name and face for women's triathlete training in the New York and New Jersey area.

"It was originally my idea to start the program in New Jersey," said Nelson who had added the chapter to the Lipstick business. "But I wasn't able to provide the flexibility of programming and pricing to my athletes under the Lipstick program, so I decided to go out on my own," she noted.

Nelson, who started the new venture in September, also wanted to provide a more fully-rounded coaching program and a higher degree of autonomy for her coaches.

“It's less about racing, and more about health, fitness, balance, and camaraderie,” she said.

Although she is a previous elite road racer, Nelson has taken the racing requirement out of the equation so that cyclists, runners, and swimmers can work towards their goals, but race only if they want to.

Cozik's swim coach Lisa Picek has also left Lipstick for the position of aquatics director at Team WE, whose coaching team includes Andy Nelson, Nelson's husband, and Mara Miller, a two-time national road cycling champion.

Though Team Lipstick did not invent or even re-focus the attention on women’s training—19-time national cycling champion Betsy Davis was doing that back in the 1990’s long before Cozik had ever raced a triathlon, Cozik had rekindled a local interest on women’s racing by building a business around them.

She also attracted attention to her program by training CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and six other people for a triahlon (they finished.)

“She has definitely tapped into something unique," said Nelson, "but it was a temporary monopoly, and competition is good for the customer.”

Tara Cioffi said she couldn’t even clip into the pedals when she originally starting working with Nelson to lose weight. Her original goal was “just to finish a triathlon,” she wrote in an email.

But since completing the Diamond Girl Triathlon on August 28 she has lost 10 pounds and adjusted her point of view. “Initially I went into training thinking that I don't have to go fast, I just have to “go.” But that philosophy has changed: I know I can finish, [and] now I want to finish faster,” she wrote.

No doubt about it, triathlon racing has had a growth spurt that defies the recession of the last two years.

Annual membership in the USA Triathlon group that governs triathlon racing has grown from 19,060 in 1999 to 100,674 in 2007. And women who made up 27 percent of all triathlete members in 1999, now make up 37 percent. Races, camps and clinics have also doubled from 1,541 in 2004 to 3,115 in 2009, according to the organization.

Participation in triathlons has grown to 1.2 million Americans taking part in at least one on-road triathlon in 2009, 51.4 percent greater than in 2007 (798,000), according to a May 2010 study by the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association.

The greatest growth among members and participants have been among the 35-39 and 40-44 age groups—prime ages for expanding tummy and hip lines, areas that women generally complain about when most of their exercise might be walking from their car, to their job, to their car again, and hitting the sofa at night to watch a bit of television.  Even New Yorkers in that age group see a rise in their tummy and butt lines that can be frustrating.

Team WE will now compete head on with Team Lipstick who says they are "New York City's largest and most successful all-female triathlon team,” according to their website.

The claim is hard to substantiate since Lipstick offers no explanation about how they arrived at it --no stats or race results are available to compare to other groups of racing women, though Lipstick’s "about us" page states that, "every one of our athletes had a strong finish line effort, with one placement on the podium."

The Century Road Club Association, the Five Borough Bike Club, the New York Cycle Club and several other New York-based racing and recreational bike clubs have many more female race members, often performing at high levels of competition, though those groups do not publish their statistics based on gender.

The focus on women is not new, though it is growing in importance. Other training camps, like Mike Fraysse Sports have been focusing on women since the 1970’s, and began focusing on triathlons in the last decade, said their president and previous head of the US Cycling Federation, Mike Fraysse. His camp has produced at least one Ironman winner, Barbara Buenahora, and Betsy Davis, once national elite coach for women, coaches for his triathlon camp in Argentina.

Nelson said she can also provide the right coaching attention to New Jersey residents because she lives there. Based on her contacts, several retailers including Park Ridge Cycle Sport, the Tenafly Bicycle Workshop, Albert's Westwood Cycle , and Strictly Bicycles in Fort Lee, NJ have offered support and discounts to her more than 20 team members.

Team WE is currently in the middle of their 10-week fall training program and winter training begins in December.  Prices start at $200 for 10-12 weeks for weekly coaching sessions, to $1500 for five coached sessions per week for a full beginner triathlon program.

Still competition in the women’s triathlon market could be stiff. In 2009 Cozik’s image soared when she became the Athletic Director for the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. It was quite a sprint up to the top for Cozik, whose only previous experience was 10 years as a competitive ballroom dancer and finishing in her first triathlon in 2008, according to her website. An email  to Cozik for comment was not answered by press time.

If you were anywhere near Route 9W, a busy cyclist corridor from the George Washington Bridge, to Nyack, NY, you would see the team's ubiquitous orange, white, and black uniforms traveling north and south.

Nelson expects her team to be right up there with Team Lipstick, and perhaps to surpass it: "I am starting with New Jersey--who knows from there," she said.  Watch out, guys!


Anonymous said...

this is a very tacky story. why must you perpetuate nasty competition among women instead of writing a supportive and positive story about different options for female triathletes? shame.

jenny B said...

Sorry you find the story "tacky". I think it was fair and balanced, and reports about an important segment in cycling and triathlon that is a growing and ever evolving industry.

Things don't stay the same forever, and I thought this was an interesting development in this segment.

The pressure to perform for both entities now will be intense, and they will both have to increase their business acuity to do well--n'est'ce pas?