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2021 team preview: Liv Racing

Lotte Kopecky at team camp in January 2021
Lotte Kopecky at Liv Racing team camp in January 2021 (Image credit: Liv Racing)

The new season is one of changing gears for Liv Racing, changing colours, name and leadership. 

The Dutch UCI Women’s WorldTour team colours now feature purple with the Liv bike brand, becoming the exclusive title partner. Racing last year as CCC-Liv, the leadership tandem of three-time road race World Champion Marianne Vos and 10-time South African champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio accounted for close to half of the 28 top 10s. This helped the team finish the season sixth in world rankings, and fifth on the WorldTour. Both have moved to different teams.

The team has deep roots going back to its first year as Nederland Bloet in 2006 (later it was Rabobank Women Team, WM3 Energie, WaowDeals Pro Cycling and CCC-Liv), and all of those manifestations included Vos on the roster. The departure of Vos to Jumbo-Visma and Moolman-Pasio to SD Worx opened the door for two tenacious riders looking to take up the reigns – dual Belgian road champion Lotte Kopecky and Canadian criterium titleholder Alison Jackson.

The balance of the 10-rider roster all return from last year: Sofia Bertizzolo, Valerie Demey, Marta Jaskulska, Jeanne Korevaar, Evy Kuijpers, Soraya Paladin, Pauliena Rooijakkers and Sabrina Stultiens.

Manager: Eric van den Boom

Team Size: 10

Average Age: 25.6

How did they fare in 2020?

Wins: 6

WorldRanking: 6th

Unlike 2019 when Vos racked up 19 of the 22 total victories, the team recorded just six individual wins in 2020, but added a solid plunder of 22 top 10s to the count. Vos was stellar with three stage wins at the Giro Rosa, while Moolman-Pasio took both the South African road race and time trial titles and Marta Lach took her first road race national crown for Poland.

A solid support cast put the two team captains in positions for success, with Italian Soraya Paladin securing four top 10s, followed by Sofia Bertizzolo of Italy and the Dutch duo of Pauliena Rooijakkers and Sabrina Stultiens taking two top 10s each. At the 1.Pro Giro dell’Emilia Internazionale, Rooijakkers finished on the podium in third, helped by Stultiens and Paladin who would finish fifth and sixth, respectively.

It was in Italy at the Giro Rosa that the team exhibited its skill in breakaways and climbing, taking 13 individual top 10s by six of its riders, including three stage wins by Vos, plus a seventh-place finish in the team time trial.

TIVOLI ITALY SEPTEMBER 14 Alena Amialiusik of Belarus and Team Canyon SRAM Racing Sofia Bertizzolo of Italy and Team CCC Liv Soraya Paladin of Italy and Team CCC Liv 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

Sofia Bertizzolo and Soraya Paladin riding for CCC-Liv in 2020 Giro Rosa, where both had top 10s on stages (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Key riders

Lotte Kopecky: After five years with Lotto Soudal, the Belgian national time trial and road race champion was ready to move up to the WorldTeam ranks. She enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2020 with a stage victory at the Giro Rosa and podium finishes at Le Samyn des Dames, Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Brugge-De Panne.

Also adept on the track and in cyclo-cross, the 25-year-old took silver in the Belgian Cyclo-cross National Championships last Sunday. She will be a strong contender for the spring Classics in 2021.

Alison Jackson: Jackson moves from Sunweb, where she finished the abbreviated 2020 campaign with a top 10 at AG Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne. One of her best seasons was in 2019 while racing for Team TIBCO-SVB, where she won a stage and was second on GC at Women’s Tour of Scotland, took second overall at Tour of Guangxi Women’s WorldTour and had GC top 10s at Tour Down Under and Herald Sun Tour. The 32-year-old Canadian stalwart is a strong sprinter who can also charge up a climb, so will be key for stage racing success.

“What has always been attractive about the team is their tactics and style of racing. I like that the team functions like family and it has been easy to discuss future plans together,” said Jackson.

Soraya Paladin: The 27-year-old Italian joined the team last year from three seasons at Continental-level Alé Cipollini, where she made her mark in 2019 with GC win and mountain classification title at the Giro delle Marche in Rosa and a runner-up on GC at both the Premondiale Giro Toscana and Vuelta a Burgos. She also grabbed the mountains classification title at the Tour of Norway. Paladin was part of an 11-rider breakaway at Strade Bianche to set up team veterans for the finish, and followed that performance the next week with a sixth place at Giro dell’Emilia Internazionale. She was also ninth at La Course this year. Paladin is a versatile rider who will continue to develop her skills and race for more results. 

Sofia Bertizzolo: At just 23, Bertizzolo is one of the youngest members of Liv Racing. She demonstrated a strong finishing kick with a fifth place at AG Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne. Riding for Team Virtu Cycling in 2019, she was second on stage 1 at WWT Emakumeen Bira and fourth at Tour of Flanders, and earned a third place youth ranking on the Women's WorldTour.  Look for her to improve her climbing and closing speed at Liv Racing.

MADDALONI ITALY SEPTEMBER 17 Alison Jackson of Canada and Team Sunweb Barbara Guarischi of Italy and Movistar Team Women Breakaway during the 31st Giro dItalia Internazionale Femminile 2020 Stage 7 a 1125km stage from Nola to Maddaloni GiroRosaIccrea GiroRosa on September 17 2020 in Maddaloni Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Alison Jackson moves from Team Sunweb to Liv Racing for 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Strengths

What the team may have lost in experience with the departure of Vos and Moolman-Pasio they have gained in power and fresh aspirations from Kopecky and Jackson. 

Kopecky adds a new dimension for sprinting, while Jackson has an endless motor for any type of race. Plus, the core of the team have proven they have explosiveness to break out of the peloton on various terrain, giving the leaders a few options for one-day contests and hilly stage races.

Weaknesses

The team will have a complete remake of its strategy to earn wins, as all three riders who accounted for stage wins and national titles in 2020, have moved elsewhere. In fact, the team roster is two-thirds the size of its 2020 contingency with 10 riders, and is the smallest Women’s WorldTour squad in terms of quantity.

While there is consistency and quality with eight returning riders, Liv Racing will have to reorganise to support a two-pronged attack for newcomers Kopecky and Jackson, who will be expected to fill some big shoes as team leaders. Development of talent will be done in tandem with gaining real-time results.

Verdict

Look for a lot of the purple, floral-patterned jerseys in the mix in 2021 on all terrain, but especially for breakaways and sprints on the road. The team will be a strong contender for the spring Classics in 2021. There should be ample opportunities for riders to go for more individual honours this year.

"The team and the organisation are rock solid, thanks to bicycle manufacturer Liv. We want to win and at the same time focus on further talent development," Van den Boom said about 2021.