Marianne Vos' new Fortitude Pro Cycling team has vowed to back the muti-time and multi-discipline world champion during the next four years in her bid to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"The team has the same goal to built towards new Olympics," the team's manager Eric van den Boom told Cyclingnews when asked if the program would back Vos for the next four years. "Of course we take into consideration the journey and the development of riders and victories needed."
Vos returned to the professional peloton this spring after a year hiatus due to injuries and general fatigue from over training. She has slowly made her way back into top form, although some suggest she has not yet returned to the same level she was before injuring her hamstring in January 2015. She had a clear goal of competing in the Rio Olympics and was eventually selected to the team that also included Anna van der Breggen, Ellen Van Dijk and Annemiek Van Vleuten.
Vos played a strong role in Dutch team's tactics during the road race but didn't factor in the finale and finished ninth, 1:14 behind the lead breakaway. Her teammates Van Vleuten crashed on the final descent of the race while she was in a solo bid for the gold medal, but van der Breggen, who was in the winning chase group behind, went on to secure the victory.
Vos announced the formation of Fortitude Pro Cycling at the end of September. The new team title will replace former Rabobank sponsor, which announced last December that it would end all its professional sports sponsorship after 2016, leaving Rabo Liv without title financial backer.
Asked why the team chose to name the new program Fortitude Pro Cycling, Van den Boom said, “The name was chosen as it tells the philosophy of the team and the structure that is based on a more innovative business plan, the eventual sponsors or partners that would do a substantial contribution could be added of course into the communication on clothing, etc.
"In any case, within this plan all kinds of businesses who would like to identify themselves with sports and the cycling team are welcome to join us and can hook up any time."
Vos confirmed to Cyclingnews in an interview in August that despite losing Rabobank the team would go ahead in 2017, but noted how difficult it was to find a new sponsor.
In the initial Fortitude Pro Cycling press release, Van den Boom invited small businesses, mom-and-pop shops, larger companies with a sizable workforce and multinationals to join the 2017 team.
Asked if the team had in fact found a replacement sponsor for Rabobank, Van den Boom simply said, “The team is supported and secured by the project Fortitude.”
Vos told Cyclingnews that, aside from Rabobank, many of the former Rabo Liv team's partners were inclined to continue their relationships with the new team, however, Van de Boom was not yet ready to confirm the list of sponsors.
He was quick to point out that Fortitude Pro Cycling is essentially the same team held under the same management as Rabo Liv. "The team is the same, only the set-up, sponsor-wise, is less traditional, but the general structure and management will stay the same."
Vos will lead the roster that also includes returning riders Katarzyna Niewiadoma, Yara Kastelijn, Jeanne Korevaar, Anouska Koster, Moniek Tenniglo. New recuits include Rotem Gafinovitz and Anna Plichta, both from BTC City Ljubljana, along with Lauren Kitchen (Hitec Products), Valentina Scandolara (Cylance) and Riejanne Markus (Team Liv Plantur).
Current Rabo Liv riders who are not involved in the new program next year are former world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, who signed with Canyon-SRAM in 2017, and Olympic gold medallist Anna van der Breggen, who is set to race with Boels Dolmans.
The team also lost Lucinda Brand to Liv Plantur, Thalita De Jong to Lares-Waowdeals, Shara Gillow and Roxanne Knetemann to Poitou-Charentes -Futuroscope 86.