Team: Rabo Liv Woman Cycling Team
UCI Ranking: 1/36 (same 2014)
Win Count: 24 (Down from 48 in 2014)
Top Riders: Anna van der Breggen (1), Lucinda Brand (10), Katarzyna Niewiadoma (12), Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (18)
With the absence of Marianne Vos due to injury, the Rabo Liv Woman Cycling Team went into the 2015 season with a significant handicap. Last year, the team rallied primarily around Vos to record an impressive 48 victories (21 of those from Vos). This year, the team managed to win exactly half that amount, 24, but that didn’t to take away from the team’s ability to secure the top spot on the UCI ranking ahead of runner-up squad Boels Dolmans Cycling Team and third placed Wiggle Honda.
In addition, the team’s go-to rider Anna van der Breggen delivered when it counted, even with a mid-season break, winning 11 races including the overall titles at the Giro Rosa, Elsy Jacobs and a World Cup victory at La Fleche Wallonne Feminine. She also took numerous other stage victories and a second place in the road race at the World Championships. Her success pushed her into the top spot in the women’s individual UCI ranking by season’s end.
Other riders who made strong contributions to the overall success of Rabo Liv in the UCI ranking included Lucinda Brand, ranked 10th in the individual standings, won stages at the Energiewacht Tour and Giro Rosa, while Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, who decided on mixing in mountain biking during the season, won a stage of the Giro Rosa. Katarzyna Niewiadoma pulled her own weight as well winning the overall title at the Euskal Emakumeen Bira. The team also took top honours at the Crescent Woman World Cup Vargarda team time trial.
What to expect in 2016
The bulk of the team will remain the same in 2016, so we can expect to see more of their success with riders like Van der Breggen, Brand, Niewiadoma and Ferrand-Prevot leading the charge. After treating her hamstring injury and a period of feeling overloaded, Vos is expected to make the long-awaited return to road racing next year. Although her sights are firmly set on competing at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, one can never count her out for victories elsewhere. The team will also no doubt be one of the strongest on the new Women's WorldTour.
Biggest signing for 2016
The team lost riders Sabrina Stultiens (to Liv –Plantur) and Anna Kauer (to Parkhotel Valkenburg) but they signed Dutchwoman Yara Kastelijn to the roster for 2016, as the only new signing announced so far. She is only 18 years of age but has already shown promise after winning the junior time trial at the national championships, third in the junior time trial at the European Games, along with an eighth place at in the junior road race at the World Championships.
One to watch in 2016
Look out for Marianne Vos’ return to road racing. After spending a year in recovery mode, including missing the cyclo-cross season, she will no doubt want to get back to her winning ways as quickly as possible. And according to a recent poll on Twitter, Cyclingnews followers believe that nothing can stop her from making a swift comeback.
Team: Boels Dolmans Cycling Team
UCI Ranking: 2/36 (up one from 2014)
Win Count: 26 (up from nine in 2014)
Top Riders: Lizzie Armitstead (2), Megan Guarnier (7), Ellen Van Dijk (13), Christine Majerus (16)
The Boels Dolmans Cycling Team made some impressive improvements on their victory count during the 2016 season with a total of 26 wins, up from a mere nine last year. Their success allowed them to also jump up one place from third to second in the team UCI Ranking behind Rabo Liv, while Lizzie Armitstead, who took 10 wins, nestled into second place behind Anna van der Breggen in the individual ranking.
Perhaps more importantly for Boels Dolmans, was Armitstead’s ability to capture the overall World Cup title (for the second year in a row) by winning three World Cups; round two at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda in Italy, round six at the Philadelphia Cycling Classic in the US, and the 10th and final round at the GP de Plouay-Bretagne in France. She also opened the season with an overall win at the Ladies Tour of Qatar and capped off the season with an incredible victory in the road race at the World Championships in Richmond, to claim the rainbow jersey while racing for Great Britain.
But Armitstead wasn’t the only winning-factor for Boels Dolmans, a team that is praised for their ability to race well together, tactically. US road champion Megan Guarnier picked up six victories, which included the inaugural Strade Bianche, a stage at Euskal Emakumeen Bira, a stage at the Giro Rosa where she led the overall for seven of the 10 stages, and she won the overall title at the Ladies Tour of Norway. She also capped off a season on home soil with the bronze medal in the women’s road race at the World Championships.
A big winner last year, Christine Majerus brought the teams win count up with her success at the Aviva Women’s Tour this year, while Ellen Van Dijk opened the season with a stage win at the Ladies Tour of Qatar, Chantal Blaak won Le Samyn des Dames and a stage at Euskal Emakumeen Bira, Evelyn Stevens won the Tour of California Women’s Individual Time Trial and Amalie Dideriksen won a stage at the Lotto Belgium Tour.
What to expect in 2016
Much like Rabo Liv, the bulk of the Boels Dolmans team will remain intact for the 2016 season. Thus, we can expect them to continue to work together to bring the team’s win count up a few notches. Their riders are all-rounders, a perfect mix of aggressive one- specialists and stage race contenders. We will likely continue to see them dominate both the one-day race and stages races on the new 17-event Women’s WorldTour.
Biggest signing for 2016
Boels Dolmans picked up Canadian Karol-Ann Canuel from Velocio-SRAM, which folded at the end of this season. Always a strong team player, Canuel was a member of Velocio-SRAM’s winning team time trialling formula at the World Championships, and a strong domestique. This year, she broke out and took a stage win at the Internationale Thuringen Rundfahart der Frauen and placed second overall to Emma Johansson. She also won a stage at the Gracia Orlova, was second in the time trial at Chrono Gatineau and won the time trial at the national championships. We can expect her to fit right into her new position at Boels Dolmans.
One to watch in 2016
There’s nothing like the pressure of wearing a rainbow jersey and we expect Armitstead will handle it well, and want to show it off on the top step of the podium next year. She expressed her excitement over the inaugural Women’s WorldTour but noted that she intends to continue to focus on the classic-style races that suit her best. Always a team supporter, she said if her team decides to go for the Women's WorldTour ranking she will do her best to support the women on her team who will contest the more mountainous stage races.