Scandolara embarks on newfound leadership role with Cylance

Italian looks forward to shared responsibilities with American sprinter Olds

Valentina Scandolara is grateful for her last two seasons spent at Orica-AIS, however, when the new Cylance squad offered her a chance to develop into a team leader, she jumped at the opportunity. The Italian will meet her new teammates at a season-opening camp held from January 20-26.

"I've spent two wonderful years with Orica-AIS, during which I learnt and grew a lot, got to know amazing people and what a wonderful country Australia is," Scandolara told Cyclingnews. "I worked hard for my team leader Emma Johansson, and I am very grateful to everyone that walked beside me during this period: I will remember these times as some of the best times in my cycling career.

"I felt, though, that I needed a change to grow even further and to show my full potential as a rider in an environment that believes in me and believes that I can become a leader myself.

"When Cylance's Team Manager Omer Kem contacted me, I was hooked by his perspective and projects for women's cycling. His enthusiasm is infectious and inspiring. And the fact that he moved from managing men's cycling teams to women's because he sees how much growth potential our sport has, is a fact that impressed and motivated me."

The new Cylance team was announced in November and will be registered under the UCI as an American-based team. It is managed by Inspire Sports founder Omer Kem, who also brought on title sponsor Cylance, a high-tech computer security firm.

He also signed Olympic hopefuls such as Shelley Olds and Rosella Ratto, along with Krista Doebel-Hickok, Alison Tetrick, Erica Zaveta, Sheyla Gutierrez, Doris Schweizer and Kathryn Bertine. He has hired Manel Lacambra as the team's director.

"I didn't yet have the chance of meeting all the girls and the people involved in the team, but I really like the ones I do already know," Scandolara said.

"Shelley is one of the best sprinters in the world - no news on that. But we have really strong young climbers in Ratto, Hickok, Gutierrez, really powerful riders in Schweitzer and Tetrick, and very young, not-yet-so-experienced talents that just need the chance and mentorship to grow and blossom.

"I think the biggest strength of the team will be the group dynamics that we will create: I know Manel chose us for our character as well as our strengths on the bike, and the reason for that is that we want to have a really united group. From this, performances and improvements will follow naturally."

Italian happy to work alongside Olds in the sprints

Scandolara has had a successful career so far, and her 2015 season had strong results that included the overall win at the Santos Women's Tour, a stage win at Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche, numerous podiums and winning the points classification at Premondiale Giro Toscana Int. Femminile - Memorial Michela Fanini. She was also second in the points classifications at Ladies Tour of Norway (and fourth overall) and l'Ardeche.

Asked how she will fit into the new team, Scandolara said, "I think director Manel Lacambra (along with Luisiana Pegoraro) is one of the best in women's cycling. He is tactically very smart and knows all of the girls in the peloton and their potential.

"Shelley is one of the best riders in the world but I believe we can team up and be leaders together, on different courses and with different targets. Help each other. Give and take. That's the only way I think a team can work and become stronger - through collaboration. Individuals alone don't go far. We have a lot of talent in our young riders as well. I believe that during this year each one of us will have chances and therefore step up."

Scandolara said she hopes to be in good enough form early on to notch up a couple of good results in the winter and spring, but she is targeting top form in June and July.

"In 2016, I hope to have the chance to improve my sprint and leadership abilities, but I am also sure that working with a champion like Shelley will make me grow in many other roles, like leading her out for many winning sprints."

Aside from sprinting during international events, Scandolara is going to try and make the Italian team selected for the Olympic Games in Rio.

"The first and most important target for me is to be selected for the Italian Olympic Team, and Cylance is keen to help each of us to make our Olympic dreams real with personalized programs," Scandolara said. "Of course one of my biggest objectives will be to race Olympics. It's my biggest dream and I will ride my heart out day in, day out to deserve that spot in Rio."

The inaugural Women's World Tour will kick off in 2016, with 17 events that combine one-day races and stage races, and Scandolara believes it is a big step forward for women's racing. But she also hopes that it doesn't force smaller teams to fold.

"I think the Women's World Tour will be a huge chance that women's cycling can't miss. It can be a very good thing or a very bad thing: as in everything, it'll depend on the players' (teams, girls, and media) and the attitude towards it. It will bring a whole new level of professionalism into the peloton, and the teams who can't keep up will step down.

"I hope this will not lead to them [the smaller teams] to shut down totally, as they provide to a lot of young riders the chance to show their talent in cycling, but a change was needed and I hope we (and the potential sponsors out there) won't waste this chance.

"Cylance really believes that this will positively change women's cycling. I want to believe the same."

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