Jumbo-Visma are the latest WorldTour organisation to branch out with a top-level women's team, joining Trek-Segafredo, Team DSM, Team BikeExchange, Movistar Team, and Lotto Soudal, and to a lesser extent FDJ, with Cofidis set to follow suit in 2022. Although UCI regulations kept them from joining the Women's WorldTour, the presence of Marianne Vos at the head of the squad will all but guarantee the yellow and black-clad team will be in all of the top events.
The team has been in the works for a year, with men's manager Richard Plugge hinting last January that the potential demise of the Boels-Dolmans team and the release of several top riders including Anna van der Breggen helped solidify the idea.
Although Boels-Dolmans found a new sponsor in SD Worx and retained their riders, Jumbo-Visma instead mined Parkhotel Valkenburg, signing their manager Esra Tromp to lead the programme and bringing on board four of their 2020 riders.
The venture may be new but it's a coming home of sorts for Vos, who raced under the same banner as the Jumbo-Visma men's former sponsor Rabobank - albeit in a different organisation - for five seasons. Coming along with Vos from the CCC-Liv team is Riejanne Markus, who has been a teammate to Vos since 2017.
Manager: Esra Tromp
Team Size: 12
Average Age: 26
Marianne Vos: A legend of her time, Vos has extensive palmares and shelves full of medals and rainbow jerseys. An Olympic gold medalist in the road race (2012) and on the track in the Points Race (2008), she excels at just about every cycling discipline. A cyclo-cross world champion seven times, road world champion three times (in addition to a frustrating five second places) and a three-time European champion, Vos has also won the overall in the Giro Rosa three times and a record 28 stages there, the overall in the Women's World Cup five times in addition to a slew of one-day and stage races too long to list here.
At 33, Vos focuses more on stage wins, shorter stage races and one-day races as the Giro Rosa has added more high mountains. She finished the shortened 2020 season ranked sixth in the UCI World Rankings after winning three stages of the Giro and the points classification, and coming second at La Course by le Tour de France.
No longer the top rider in the Netherlands since the ascent of Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten, Vos still packs a punch: in 2019 she won the most races of any rider, raising her arms in victory 19 times and was a close second in the World Rankings to Lorena Wiebes.
Expect Vos to put on a good show for the team at the cyclo-cross Worlds before leading in the early season one-day Classics.
Riejanne Markus: Markus is a solid all-around rider, winner of the 2017 Gracia Orlova stage race and the Omloop van Borsele. She's an important ally for Vos, always present in the front group to cover breakaways, attack or lead out the sprint, and is a key rider for team time trials. Markus is still looking for her first WorldTour victory, so expect the 26-year-old to take on additional responsibilities and opportunities in 2021.
Anouska Koster: Koster is another powerhouse in the Jumbo-Visma team and a proven stage winner with victories in the Ladies Tour of Norway, Lotto Belgium Tour, and Tour de l'Ardèche, Koster won the Dutch road national championships in 2016. Koster has a great sprint and is a danger in a small breakaway. A consistent finisher, Koster is also a GC option for the team in the flatter stage races, having taken the overall Lotto Belgium Tour in 2017 and third at the Ladies Tour of Norway in 2016.
Romy Kasper: Kasper, 32, has the most experience of any of the riders in the team except for Vos. The German will take on the role of road captain, helping to foster the team's young talents like the up-and-coming Danish rider Pernille Mathiesen and 22-year-olds Karlijn Swinkels and Anna Henderson, as well as working to gain the attention of the Olympic Games selectors.
The Jumbo-Visma women's team's obvious strength is the superstardom of Vos, who can motivate and inspire her teammates to go above and beyond what they thought they were capable of.
They'll also have the firm footing of being part of a larger, well-established and well-run organisation, gaining additional inspiration from the men's riders like Wout van Aert and Primoz Roglic.
Vos has had a few years starting as a team's only heavy hitter and has always managed to make the team greater than the sum of its parts. As Kasper put it in an interview with Sportbuzzer.de: "We are not a team with superstars, we want to shine as a team and have a relatively good mix of experience and youth".
Mathiesen is a rider to watch: having been unable to shine in the coronavirus-struck 2020 season, she had quite promising results the previous year, winning the best young rider classification at the Madrid Challenge and Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, where she was also second overall. 2021 might be too soon for her to take over as GC leader for a race like the Giro Rosa but she's certainly a rider for the future.
The team appears to have just one topper in Vos and should she be injured or ill, they could struggle to get results against teams like SD Worx and BikeExchange who have several alternatives. In the unpredictable world of cycling, having all your hopes on one rider is perilous but could also open the door for unexpected performances from others.
It will be exciting to see how the new Jumbo-Visma Women's Team pulls together this season. The Jumbo-Visma organisation has made a commitment to the development of male riders for the past several years and now, with Tromp, Plugge is turning his attention to balancing out the support with the women's team.
Vos is always a stand-out performer and with the right mix of smaller races for support riders to shine and bigger challenges like the WorldTour races for them to learn in, we could well see some big rides out of new names like we saw in Vos' previous teams, with riders like Megan Guarnier or Kasia Niewiadoma stepping out of her shadow into stardom.
The team has ambitions of joining the WorldTour in 2022 and there will be pressure to live up to the expectations of the top tier of the sport. If anyone can do it, it's Vos.
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