American Leah Thomas will move from UnitedHealthcare to Cervélo Bigla for 2019, the Swiss-based team announced today. Thomas, a time trial specialist who won the Tour de Feminine in the Czech Republic earlier this year before claiming the Chrono Champenois time trial in France on Sunday, will shift her focus from US racing to the UCI Women's WorldTour.
"Signing a US rider is important for our partners, but she's also an important personality towards the Olympic Games," said Cervélo Bigla manager Thomas Campana. "The plan with Leah is to help her get a spot in the time trial in Tokyo. She's very focussed and keen to make her way in the European WorldTour races. That was a decisive factor for us, and her overall qualities are very good and we want to help her to reach her goals."
Thomas, 29, started her pro career in 2015 with the Twenty16 team, then moved to UnitedHealthcare this year. Her focus on US races brought plenty of success as she raced in the shadow of dominant teammate Katie Hall, who won all the major US stages races this year. Thomas was third at the Joe Martin Stage race, third at the Tour of the Gila and seventh at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
She finished seventh in the WorldTour Amgen Tour of California Women's Race in May before winning the Tour de Feminine in July. Thomas was second to Hall at the Colorado Classic in August, then travelled back to Europe to finish seventh overall at the BeNe Ladies Tour and ninth at the Boels Ladies Tour. Thomas said making the move to a predominantly UCI WorldTour calendar is instrumental in her development.
"As a young adult, I promised myself to keep seeking out new experiences that push my comfort zone," Thomas said. "I know that Cervélo Bigla will push me in all the necessary ways to become a better cyclist while providing structure, consistency and the support necessary to develop significantly as an athlete. I am grateful that they see promise in my athletic ability and are willing to develop a program with me to help me reach my full potential."
Thomas said she views her role within the team as a support rider with options.
"My goal is to be one of the main support riders, yet tactically and physically strong enough to be able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, and force other teams to respond in the race to my strategic moves," she said. "I am an all-rounder with a strong time trial. I am a decent climber and bring considerable endurance to the table in long, aggressive races, useful in domestique roles as well as the pursuit of GC results. On a personal front, I hope to further refine my time trial skills in the coming season and explore other areas of potential strength."