In the auspicious surroundings of the five-star Chateau St Gerlach hotel just outside Maastricht, Boels Dolmans presented their all-star line-up for the 2017 season.
The Dutch squad features an enviable roster that includes new world champion Amalie Dideriksen, WorldTour winner Megan Guarnier, and former rainbow jersey Lizzie Deignan. Olympic Champion Anna van der Breggen also joins the team for this season after signing over the winter.
Boels Dolmans were the undisputed top team in 2016, winning 40 races and taking home the inaugural WorldTour title and victory in the team time trial at the World Championships. Following a short video recap of the team’s dominant season, each of the riders were introduced on stage for a short interview, preceded by a flash of sparks and smoke and a song of their own choice.
Guarnier was one of the last of the team’s riders to step out on stage in the colours of US road race champion. The 31-year-old was a major contributor to the team’s success in 2016, with victories at the Tour of California, Giro d’Italia and the overall WorldTour title. Guarnier admits that a repeat performance will be a challenge in 2017 but she has faith in her teammates.
“I think this year is about trying to continue the success of last year. It’s difficult but I think that we have the team to do it,” she said after first fielding questions about how much she would miss Barak Obama as US president. “I think the strength in our team is that we have so many riders who can win that jersey or win any race. We really have those cards to play and we can play that game. It comes from a place of respect, and when you have that respect it doesn’t matter if it’s me, or any of the other nine riders on the team. It is important that Boels is represented.”
Deignan is no longer in the rainbow jersey after handing it over to her teammate Dideriksen in Doha last October. While happy for her young teammate, Deignan doesn’t want to be without the jersey for too long and confirmed that she will be looking to take it back in Bergen later this year.
“Sorry Amalie,” she said afterwards.
Deignan got off to a strong start last season, with victories coming at four of her first six races, including the Tour of Flanders. Her big target will be a little bit later this season as she aims for the hills of the Ardennes Classics, which will see a comparative programme to the men’s for the first time.
“The rainbow jersey gave me wings [last year]. I felt incredibly strong and was part such a strong team, to top it will be difficult but we will try to,” said Deignan. “The dream is probably the Ardennes week. It’s exciting for women’s cycling that we have those three races.”
Dideriksen also named the spring as an early focal point for her, as she looks to show off her new jersey as soon as possible. Still just 20 years old and mixing cycling with her school studies, Dideriksen has modest hopes for her year as World Champion.
“Lizzie had a great season,” she said. “I’m probably not going to have as many wins as she’s had. I’ve still only got three wins as a senior, including this one. I think that I will be happy if I can take a win or two.”
Boels Dolmans team for 2017: Chantal Blaak, Nikki Brammeier, Karol-Ann Canuel, Lizzie Deignan, Amalie Dideriksen, Megan Guarnier, Christine Majerus, Katarzyna Pawlowska, Amy Pieters, Jip van den Bos, Anna van der Breggen.