By any measure, Alé Cipollini exceeded expectations at the Santos Women’s Tour. The Italian team with the not-so-Italian roster for the UCI season opener scored one stage win, three stage podiums, two classification jerseys and came second overall.
Five of the six Alé Cipollini riders in Australia are new to the team this season with Australians Chloe Hosking and Carlee Taylor, Dutchwoman Janneke Ensing, German Romy Kasper and Lithuanian road champion Davia Tuslaite all part of the team’s plan to internationalise the roster. Anna Trevisi represented the only returning rider from 2016 and the only Italian amongst the team’s Santos Tour Down Under squad.
Hosking, who won stage 3 in Lyndoch, was the team’s marquee new rider last summer and had a hand in choosing the roster.
“We’re not going to be a big, big team like Boels-Dolmans, but I hope we can challenge those big teams in the races with the strength of the riders that we have,” Hosking told CyclingNews. “It’s a bit like Moneyball. We found some really, I think, underrated riders that can have a really, really great year on a team that gives them more support and more opportunities.”
Ensing was the first amongst the yellow flou squad to embrace those opportunities when she bridged across to a two-rider breakaway on the first stage of the Santos Women’s Tour. Coming across a 22-second gap to put herself into what proved to be the race winning move, Ensing set herself up to stand on the overall podium four days later.
“Getting across that gap, it was hard for me,” Ensing told CyclingNews. “Normally I would go for the win but on Friday, I was very happy with the podium also.”
It was Hosking’s turn to step up on the stage two criterium in Adelaide’s East End where she sprinted for points on the intermediate sprints before coming third on the stage behind Cyclance Pro Cycling pair Kirsten Wild and Rachele Barbieri in the bunch kick. Her efforts earned her the green sprints jersey and a podium appearance.
“The sprint jersey was never a goal, but once I got it, I wanted to keep it,” said Hosking.
She kept it.
Hosking scooped up enough points on stage 3 – from the intermediate sprints and on the finish line – to head into the final stage with a hefty but assailable advantage in the sprint classification. She also won the stage. And Ensing won both mountain primes to move into the polka dot jersey.
For a team that came in targeting a single stage win, it was an incredibly successful day.
They capped things off with another stage podium and successfully defended both the sprint and QOM jersey alongside Ensing’s general classification position.
“I didn’t come in with special goals,” said Ensing. “I came here very late – only one-and-a-half days before the race. In the Netherlands, it’s very cold. Here it’s very hot. That and the change in times, it’s very hard to be good here.
“I’m really happy that I was able to hold my position in the general classification,” she added. “The team helped me a lot. It was great. We’re here together only for a couple days and it works well already.”
Both Ensing and Hosking see the team’s success at Santos Women’s Tour as a sign for and start of bigger things to come. The pair both have sights sets on a successful classics campaign.
“Last year I was racing with Parkhotel,” said Ensing. “I had a lot of fun there but every time it was hard, I was alone. Now I have stronger teammates that can help me when it’s harder.
“The goal is for the spring classics but Ronde van Vlaanderen, that’s the big goal,” Ensing added. “A top five there would be great.”
And for Hosking?
“I don’t want to be good until late February,” she said. “I still have six weeks. The racing seems to keep bringing me up and and up and up. I’m really happy with where I’m at, and I’m also really, really happy with the team.
“It was great teamwork all through the race,” Hosking added. “I’m already seeing improvements in the lead-out train since Sunday. We were finding each other a lot better in the peloton, and I had four of the girls with me in the last five laps on the last stage. That’s really promising going forward.”