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2021 Team Preview: Ceratizit-WNT

Madrid Challenge 2020
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The German-based UCI Continental team returns for a fifth season, adding a trio of riders who can make an immediate impact that has aspirations to step up to the WorldTeam level in the future.

It is the second year under the banner of Ceratizit-WNT with co-title sponsors of Ceratizit Group and a division of the company, WNT. The team will unveil its new jersey after uniting for a training camp in February.

The team has 14 riders representing nine countries, with the three newcomers being Giro Rosa stage winner Lizzy Banks, Polish champion and up-and-coming sprinter Marta Lach and Classics specialist Lotta Henttala.

The nucleus of returning riders will be led by German champion Lisa Brennauer, who accounted for all three of the team’s major wins last season. She will continue to be supported by Kirsten Wild, Erica Magnaldi, Lara Vieceli, Maria Giulia Confalonieri, Sarah Rijkes, Kathrin Hammes, Franziska Brausse, Lin Teutenberg, Julie Leth and Laura Asencio.

Manager: Dirk Baldinger

Team Size: 14

Average Age: 27.8

How they fared in 2020

Wins: 3

WorldRanking: 7th

The team had 26 individual top 10s in 2020, providing the boost of points to propel Ceratizit-WNT to seventh in both the UCI World and Women’s WorldTour rankings.

Top sprinter Kirsten Wild focussed her early season on the UCI Track World Championships, where she won the rainbow jersey in both the Scratch Race and Madison. On the road, her only race was the Giro Rosa before a COVID-19 test came back positive and she was forced to stop before Gent-Wevelgem.

Brennauer didn’t line up for her first race of 2020 until August, but came away with a top 10 at Strade Bianche, followed by a road race crown at German nationals and a fourth place in the ITT at the European Continental Championships. She would also finish one step off the podium in the Worlds ITT in Imola.

The team ended the season on an incredibly high note with a crescendo of performances by Brennauer at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta - a main target on the calendar to support a shared title sponsor – with a stage win in the ITT and the general classification title.

Other riders on the team performed well at the two stage races during the year, including Italian Erica Magnaldi, who was fourth on stage 4 and eighth on GC at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, then came back after a four-month hiatus of racing due to the coronavirus shutdowns by finishing fifth at the Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa and riding to sixth on the final stage of the Giro Rosa. Spaniard Ane Santesteban had four top 10s last season, plus seventh on GC at the Giro Rosa and a mountains classification title at the Valenciana race.

Lisa Brennauer

Lisa Brennauer (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Key riders

Lisa Brennauer: Brennauer is a two-time winner of the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour and has also won the Boels Rental Ladies Tour, Aviva Women’s Tour, and Energiewacht Tour. In 2014 she won the world title in the ITT and placed second in the road race. Ceratizit-WNT was glad to sign the 32-year-old German in 2019 when the team raced under the banner of WNT-Rotor Pro, and she demonstrated her sprinting abilities with GC wins at Festival Elsy Jacobs and her first of two titles at Madrid Challenge.

She had an impressive season in 2020, starting the campaign placing eighth at Strade Bianche, defending her German road race title and scoring two top 10s in the Giro Rosa. After a fourth place in the ITT and ninth place in the road race at Worlds, she rode into the top 10 on all of the last four events of her season, saving the best for last with her second straight overall title at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta.

Lizzy Banks: Banks is 30, but young in cycling years as this will only be her third year as a professional and fifth year racing at all. The British rider had a strong season last year riding for now-defunct Equipe Paule Ka, taking a stage win at the Giro Rosa and a silver medal at GP Plouay Trophee. Now with back-to-back wins at the Giro Rosa on her resume, her impressive solo victory in 2020 resulted from a 70km breakaway on the longest stage of the week, 170 kilometres. She is a versatile rider who can no longer fly under the radar with any moves in a race.

“I think the duo of Lisa [Brennauer] and I in the final of a race can be an incredibly dynamic duo and a dangerous one as well,” Banks said in November when she joined the team.

Kirsten Wild: Wild rode with Brennauer at Wiggle High5 and moved to the team, then WNT-Rotor Pro, with her teammate in 2019. She has a long list of achievements on the road, and on the track, in her 18-year career, including a 10-time stage winner at the Ladies Tour of Qatar, four years as GC winner, and five-time winner of Omloop Van Borsele. Her first year on the team she took titles at back-to-back Classics, Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem, and then a pair of stage wins at both the Healthy Ageing Tour and Tour de Bretagne Feminin.

Wild had planned to retire in 2020 after another go representing the Netherlands in the Olympic Games and decided to continue her dual-discipline cycling career to align with the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021. The track experience of the 38-year-old still brings a strong kick in the sprints to Ceratizit-WNT.

Lotta Henttala: Henttala is a fast, Finnish talent who adds a new dimension for Ceratizit-WNT in 2021, riding the last two seasons at Trek-Segafredo. The six-time Finnish national road champ had several standout performances earlier in her career at Bigla, including one-day victories at Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, two stage wins at the Women’s Tour and a second-place at 2016 La Course by Le Tour de France. Henttala, 31, will provide experience and strength to the Classics campaign.

TIVOLI ITALY SEPTEMBER 14 Arrival Elizabeth Banks of The United Kingdom and Team Paule Ka Celebration during the 31st Giro dItalia Internazionale Femminile 2020 Stage 4 a 1703km stage from Assisi to Tivoli 237m GiroRosaIccrea GiroRosa on September 14 2020 in Tivoli Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Lizzie Banks (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Strengths

An already well-established team, the addition of Lizzie Banks will add a confident dimension to the team for a three-pronged attack with the versatility of Brennauer and Wild. Henttala will provide experience and strength to the Classics campaign as well. Magnaldi can climb and continues to develop in her third year on the team. 

The team has the talent to not just react to other teams in races, but make something of the race themselves.

Weaknesses

Among the three riders which did not return to the squad for 2021 was climber Santesteban, whose strengths in stage races and hilly one-day races will be missed. Wild only participated in one stage race last year, the Giro Rosa. While the team supports her focus on track in an Olympic year, her contributions may be minimal again on the road and her big kick in the bunch sprints will be missed.

Verdict

This Continental squad is ambitious and has a versatile roster with proven results to back that up. The Brennauer-Wild tandem in the sprints never got a chance to shine in 2020, so this could be their year, with Banks as the wildcard. Probably not a surprise any longer to the competition and fans, but the team will continue to meld its strengths in all types of races to earn podium appearances on the Women’s WorldTour stage.

Banks summed it up when she joined the roster last fall: “There’s so much talent within this team that’s bubbling through and is about to crack open some big results.”