The Spanish Women's WorldTeam have always had a stated goal of developing into one of the best teams in the world and with Van Vleuten they can certainly expect winning performances in the Classics and mountainous stage races on the Women's WorldTour in 2021.
The team are currently united at an opening training camp in Almeria, Spain, before they present their men's and women's teams together near the headquarters of their title sponsor Movistar Telefonica.
The season will officially get underway for Movistar Team Women at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana from February 18-22 in Spain before turning to the Spring Classics at opening weekend's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 27 in Belgium. The first Women's WorldTour race of the season will be at Strade Bianche on March 6 in Italy, followed by a full Classics campaign.
The team announced a 14-rider roster, led by Van Vleuten, that also includes Leah Thomas along with Katrine Aalerud, Aude Biannic, Jelena Erić, Alicia González, Barbara Guarischi, Sheyla Gutiérrez, Sara Martín, Emma Norsgaard, Lourdes Oyarbide, Paula Patiño, Gloria Rodríguez, and Alba Teruel.
Manager: Sebastian Unzue Gravalos
Team Size: 14
Average Age: 26.6
How did they fare in 2020?
Movistar Team Women won two races in 2020 at La Périgord Ladies with Sheyla Gutiérrez, while her teammate Katrine Aalerud won the Norwegian national time trial title. With only two wins, they were not ranked higher in the UCI World Ranking (16th) and the Women's WorldTour team ranking (14th), but those rankings don't always tell the full story.
This Spanish outfit has come a long way since it began in 2018, the have a strong group, and that shows by their series of top-10 results on the international calendar. That figure is 10 top-10 finishes, to be exact, and those results came during a season that was truncated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby Spain was one of the hardest hit nations in Europe.
There were 10 events cancelled from the Women's WorldTour, but Movistar Team Women showed up at all of the events that remained on the revised calendar, ready to perform while also prioritising and supporting their home Spanish races.
Annemiek van Vleuten: What a coup for Movistar Team Women to sign one of the most successful riders in the peloton. It was a major boost for the team that have placed most of their priority on development over the last three seasons. Van Vleuten joined Movistar on a two-year deal that will take her through 2022. While she will be the team's leader, she is also committed to helping develop their younger talent, and integrating into the team's existing professional atmosphere.
Van Vleuten is a versatile rider - two-time time trial world champion, former road race world champion, two-time Giro Rosa winner, winner of the Tour of Flanders, and twice winner of both Strade Bianche and La Course. Her presence on the team raises the bar and the expectation of Movistar Team Women from development to world class.
Leah Thomas: Don't let the signing of Thomas go under the radar. The American rider found a new contract with the Movistar Team Women for 2021 after her team Equipe Paule Ka unexpectedly folded last October. It was a last-minute signing but worth every penny because Thomas is a rising talent on the Women's WorldTour.
In 2020, she won the Queen stage of the Setmana Valenciana and took third at the Strade Bianche, behind Van Vleuten and Mavi Garcia (Ale). She is a strong time triallist and stage racer, so watch for her to take her own opportunities to win races.
Sheyla Gutiérrez: As one of the winners of last year's season for Movistar Women Team, Gutierrez will once again be a rider to watch in the bigger races in 2021. She has been on the development track since joining the team in 2019, from the American team Cylance. In her two full seasons at Movistar, she was third at Grand Prix de Plumelec and won La Périgord Ladies, but she has so much potential for bigger results on the Women's WorldTour. Her strength might be shared between supporting Van Vleuten while also getting her own opportunities at races, but watch the 27-year-old for continued growth.
Emma Cecilie Norsgaard: She joins the team from Equipe Paule Ka, alongside Thomas, and is a rider full of potential. A two-time national champion of Denmark, she is a powerful time traillist but a strong one-day and flatter stage racer. She can play a major support role when needed, but at just 21-years-old she has so much to learn and so much growth ahead of her, and who better to learn from than Van Vleuten. She already has strong results from her previous three years at the Bigla programme, including podiums at Chrono des Nations, Omloop van Het Hageland, road race nationals, and Giro Toscana, along with victory in stage 1 at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana last season.
The addition of Annemiek van Vleuten and Leah Thomas give the team winning cards to play in both one-day races and stage races. They bring added strength to the team, that is already full of strong climbers, for the 2021 Women's WorldTour. The team is backed by both world-class sponsors and organisation, so they come into the season well-prepared, with the best equipment, and a strong roster.
Van Vleuten is the stand-out rider on the team who we will expect to see fighting for victories in the one-day races and stage races. Her presence on the team raises the motivation bar for everyone, and so expect strong performances to come from their range of climbing talent through the season, including Katrine Aalerud and Paula Andrea Patiño. The team also have a series of powerful riders who can play roles in the flat races and sprints with Barbara Guarischi, Jelena Erić, Alicia González, Sara Martin, Emma Cecilie Norsgaard, and Alba Teruel.
In just a few short years, Movistar Team Women have risen from being a team focused on developing women's cycling in Spain to potentially contesting for major victories on the 2021 Women's WorldTour in 2021. Each season the team make a progress of adjustments, another step forward, and this season is no different. Last year, the team had success with top-10 performances in almost every race they entered.
In 2021, they take another step up and so they are bound to experience a few growing pains as they get to know one another and adjust to the heightened expectations of having a rider like Van Vleuten on the team. The team have a series of strong riders for flatter races and sprints, including Barbara Guarischi, but they haven't had a pure sprinter to contest for victory at the Women's WorldTour races, yet.
Movistar Team Women launched in 2018 and are built on the same management, sponsors and staff as their long-time men's WorldTour outfit. The Spanish multi-national broadband and telecommunications provider, Telefonica, recognised the importance of fostering inclusion and gender equality when they created their women's team four years ago.
Their initial goal was to develop women's cycling in Spain but Movistar Team Women have since branched out becoming one of the first eight teams to acquire a Women's WorldTeam licence from 2020-2023, which showed that the management is committed to developing their women's programme.
They have made steady progress in their first three seasons racing in the top-tier of women's cycling and we can expect that with a more international roster in sprints, time trials, one-day and stage races. The signing of riders like Van Vleuten and Thomas mean that the team will have a consistent presence on the podium at the Women's WorldTour events in 2021.
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