Cylance Pro Cycling is the latest women's team to break into the top end of the international peloton, and director Manel Lacambra is hoping his roster's mix of experienced veterans and talented newcomers will ensure the long-term prospects for the American-based team.
Cylance started the season at the Santos Women's Tour in Australia, where sprinter Shelley Olds finished second overall. Cylance finished competing just on Friday in the Ladies Tour of Qatar, where Olds finished fifth on the final stage and 11th overall. As the eighth-raked UCI team in the world heading into Qatar, the team is looking to make a splash in the inaugural women's WorldTour.
Lacambra recently told Cyclingnews - at the team's training camp near the title sponsor's headquarters in Southern California - that his goals for a new women's team were a perfect match with team owner Omer Kem's, and their new relationship came together quickly.
“I was looking to create a new project, and I heard that Omer was looking also to make a very good women's team,” Lacambra said. “One friend put me in contact with him, and after 10 minutes on the phone with him I think we said OK. We had the same thoughts for the future in women's cycling, and it's good when we can meet and create this project together. Then I went to his home, we had a talk and we said, 'OK, let's keep going. We will create this project together.' At that moment we had nothing, but everything came together well and finally we had this project.”
The team signed Lacambra and Olds on the same day, and then the team director went to work on putting together a roster that had an international flavour and an instant UCI ranking.
“When we started this project it was important since we were going into the new WorldTour of the women, so what we needed then is points,” Lacambra said. “You need good riders and also these good riders need to have UCI points to qualify as a top 10 team in the world.
“We knew Shelley is one of the best cyclists in the world, one of the best in America, and also she had a lot of points,” the team director said. “We know that she will also bring experience and some victories during the year. Then we focus the season on her and we know that the sponsors will be happy to have her and we focused on the rest of the team.”
Lacambra then signed Americans Kristabel Doebel-Hicock, Alison Tetrick and Erica Zaveta, Italians Rachele Barbieri, Rossella Ratto and Valentina Scandolara, Spanish rider Sheyla Gutiérrez, Swiss time trial champion Doris Scwheizer and Katherine Bertine of Saint Kitts.
“When you make a new team what you need to look for is that you have a good sprinter, you have power riders for the classics and good climbers for the the Fleche Wallonne and Giro d'Italia,” Lacambra said. “You need to build a team to find everything that you need. For me most important was to find the right girls with the right character. What I want is that we have fun, that everyone is part of the team, but when it's work it's work, that they are professional. We got this, because I could see in Australia already that everyone was very happy. The ambiance was very fun, but when it was time to work everyone was 100 per cent professional.”
Lacambra was also looking beyond the 2016 season when he built the roster.
“You need to have the balance, to have some experienced riders, where you know they will guarantee one good season and will give the experience to the young riders,” he said. “But young riders are the future of this team. This is a project for the long term, and what we want is the experienced riders to help the young riders like Rosella to become the big champions.”
This season will be the first title sponsorship for Cylance, an artificial intelligence cyber-security firm that has experienced exponential growth since its founding in 2012. Lacambra said he is excited to be at the helm of a team with a sponsor new to women's cycling.
“I think it's amazing, because we know that with the women's sport in general it is so hard to find a good sponsor like that because it is really a big company,” he said. “We are so happy, it's amazing, and to have a big brand like Cannondale, one of the best brands in the world – for us it's the best brand in the world – to want to start a project in women's cycling, too, I think it's amazing. And we hope other companies have the same idea and create more teams. More teams in women's cycling will be better for everyone.”