Hitec, Liv-Plantur, UnitedHealthcare: 2015 Report Cards

Underdog women's teams show themselves

Team: Hitec Products
UCI Ranking: 7/36 (Down from 6/31 in 2014)
Win Count: 20 (Up from 14 in 2014)
Top Riders: Kirsten Wild, Lauren Kitchen, Emilie Moberg

The Hitec Products squad capitalized on the acquisition of star rider Kirsten Wild in 2015, helping to propel the Dutch powerhouse to 10 victories over the course of the season. This success was accomplished in spite of Wild skipping her title defence at the Ladies Tour of Qatar in order to focus on track racing. Her wins included the Novilon Eurocup, Ronde van Gelderland, Omloop van Borsele, the GP Gatineau, and Omloop van de IJsseldelta, and stages of the Energiewacht Tour, Tour de Bretagne Féminin and two stages and the overall Tour of Chongming Island.

Wild wasn't the only rider churning out results: Lauren Kitchen claimed the Oceania Continental Championship road race in February, then racked up victories in the Tour of Thailand, Ronde van Overijssel and a stage and the overall Tour of Zhoushan Island, where Tatiana Guderzo also won a stage. Emilie Moberg picked up a pair of stages at the Tour de Feminin in the Czech Republic and the sprint prize at the Philadelphia World Cup.

These results came in addition to national titles by Norwegians Cecilie Gotaas Johnsen in the time trial and Miriam Bjørnsrud in the road race.

What to expect in 2016

The team remains largely intact for the coming season, and Wild is expected to continue her preparation for the Olympic Games in Rio on the track and road. Like most teams, Hitec Products will put a strong emphasis on getting results ahead of the May 31 cutoff for qualifying positions for Rio.

Biggest signing for 2016

Simona Frapporti comes across from Ale Cipollini as the top addition to the team. A former stage winner in La Route de France, Frapporti is a consistently strong rider who can support Wild in the sprints and hard one-day races, and fare well in small bunch sprints. The team's other new rider, Susanne Andersen, is only 17, but placed a fine fifth at the junior women's road race in the Richmond World Championships this season. At such a young age, there will be minimal pressure placed on her shoulders for 2016.

One to watch in 2016

The Hitec team has relied largely on foreign riders to get results, but as a Norwegian squad they will look to better their current 20th place in the UCI nations rankings or at least remain in the top 22 to earn a two-woman team for the Games. Emilie Moberg has been the most consistent performer in the team, and if she races smart and has the team behind her, she has the potential to score some big results.

Hitec Product's Kirsten Wild wins stage 3

Team: Liv-Plantur
UCI Ranking: 8/36 (Down from 5/31 in 2014)
Win Count: 5 (Down from 19 in 2014)
Top Riders: Amy Pieters, Floortje Mackaij

Liv-Plantur, who raced as Giant-Shimano in 2014, suffered from the loss of Kirsten Wild. Amy Pieters was expected to step out from the shadow of her Dutch compatriot but was consistently outgunned by the bigger teams like Boels Dolmans, Rabo-Liv and Wiggle Honda.

Pieters posted impressively consistent results throughout the season, taking second in the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup, a silver at the Dutch championship road race, and third in La Course by Tour de France before posting her first victory of the season in La Route de France prologue. Pieters led the race for three stages before finally dropping to 12th overall.

Floortje Mackaij, 20, was more prolific, scoring victories in Gent-Wevelgem, the Festival Luxembourgeois du Cyclisme Féminin Elsy Jacobs and a stage of the Lotto Belgium Tour in addition to second overall at the BeNe Ladies Tour. Lucy Garner scored the team's fifth victory in a stage of La Route de France.

The team had some bad luck, with GC contender Claudia Lichtenberg (nee Hausler) crashed in Gent-Wevelgem and suffered a serious concussion that kept her from racing for almost three months. She rebounded to take third in La Route de France. Sabrina Stultiens also suffered a head injury in August, but came back in November to take silver at the 94.7 Cycle Challenge in South Africa.

Biggest signing for 2016

With the loss of Pieters and Garner to Wiggle-Honda, and Lichtenberg to Lotto Soudal, the Liv-Plantur team will have to rebuild in 2016, and will look to Canadian Leah Kirchmann to produce results. Kirchmann, a Canadian champion with a wicked turn of speed, has been highly successful in the North American domestic scene, and will look to prove herself on the world stage. The GC duties of Lichtenberg will fall into the capable hands of Australian Carlee Taylor.

One to watch in 2016

Mackaij is only 20, and has been gaining experience and more consistently high results this season. In 2016, expect the Dutch rider to take on more responsibilities as team leader and protected rider, and produce more victories.

Floortje Mackaij wins the 2015 women's Gent-Wevelgem

Team: UnitedHealthcare
UCI Ranking: 10/36 (Up from 11/31 in 2014)
Win Count: 13 (Up from 9 in 2014)
Top Riders: Coryn Rivera, Linda Villumsen, Hannah Barnes

UnitedHealthcare opted to turn the majority of its focus on UCI-ranked races and the USA Cycling National Road Calendar in 2015, and although falling just shy of the podium in the individual standings, the women proved to be the strongest team in the NRC.

The team started out winning early, with Linda Villumsen winning the New Zealand road title on the same day Hannah Barnes claimed the GP San Luis. Barnes went on to win two stages of the Tour de San Luis and Katie Hall won the queen stage, giving the team enormous momentum for the rest of the season.

Coryn Rivera came out swinging on the domestic front with a pair of stage wins in Redlands with Katie Hall coming fourth overall. Rivera continued her success with a stage win in the Joe Martin Stage Race, with Scotti Wilborne also taking top honours on the final stage. Rivera went on to take silver in the PanAmerican Championship, earning herself a spot on the team for the World Championships.

Hall showed her climbing abilities with a second place overall in the Tour of the Gila, with Barnes taking out the win in the criterium there. Hall went on to win the opening stage at the Tour of California, but slipped to fourth overall by the finish.

In Europe, the team found success in the Aviva Women's Tour stage 5 with Barnes taking out the sprint in Hempstead. Rivera bounced back from a nasty crash in Britain to take out a stage win in the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen in July. Hall claimed a stage win in the race the next day.

Although racing for New Zealand, Villumsen put in an outstanding ride to win the UCI Road World Championship individual time trial in Richmond, and will bring the rainbow bands to the team in 2016.

What to expect in 2016

After winning the World Championships after so many near misses, expect to see a Linda Villumsen full of confidence with sights firmly set on Rio. The team loses Barnes to Canyon-SRAM, but keeps eight of its core riders and adds Iris Slappendel, the experienced Dutch rider. They also add two-time junior Canadian National champion Annie Ewart, who won a stage in Tour of the Gila. They also brought on British TT champion Hayley Simmonds for an extra boost in the TTTs.

Biggest signing for 2016

Slappendel will be an excellent road captain and can help rally the younger troops in the big races. She can help the team improve its performances in Europe, which will be important for the Olympic qualifications and the futures of the younger riders.

One to watch in 2016

Rivera, a multi-time national champion, proved herself to be much more than a criterium racer this season. With performances like a very close second place in the USA Pro Road Championships, and fifth in the Philaldephia World Cup, in addition to her wins this year, she has taken the step to the next level. With Rio looming on the horizon, Rivera will be gunning for the tight Olympic selection. Expect her to hit out hard in the first half of the season to catch the selector's eye.

Coryn Rivera (UHC) takes the win on the final stage of the inagural women's edition of the USAPCC.

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