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2021 Team Preview: SD Worx

SD Worx 2021
SD Worx 2021 (Image credit: SD Worx)

It was inevitable that the powerful Dutch team SD Worx, formerly Boels Dolmans, would be joining the ranks of the Women's WorldTeams, bringing that tally to nine top-tier squads in 2021.

The team had been the leaders of the world ranking for five consecutive seasons (2015-2019) and during that time boasted, strong, talented and successful athletes that included elite women's world champions in Lizzie Deignan, Amalie Dideriksen, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Anna van der Breggen.

Although they were initially denied a WorldTeam licence last year following the departure of Boels Rental and Dolmans Landscaping as title sponsors, they quickly regained financial stability with the introduction of new primary sponsor SD Worx, which has committed to supporting the team through 2024.

Double world champion Anna van der Breggen will lead the 14-rider roster in what will be her last season before retiring from competition and becoming the team's sports director. The roster also includes returning riders Jolien D'hoore, Amy Pieters, Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, Christine Majerus, Lonneke Uneken, and Karol-Ann Canuel. New signings include Demi Vollering, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, Elena Cecchini, Roxane Fournier, Nikola Noskova, Anna Shackley, and Niamh Fisher-Black.

Manager: Danny Stam

Team Size: 14 riders

Average Age: 27.9

How did they fare in 2020?

Wins: 11

WorldRanking: 2nd

In their final season under the title Boels Dolmans and as a Continental team, they finished second behind American outfit Trek-Segafredo in both the UCI World Ranking and UCI Women's WorldTour Ranking in 2020.

The team secured 11 victories on the international calendar. We can bump that figure up to 14 if you include Van der Breggen's victory in the time trial at the European Championships, and her historical double victories in the time trial and the road race at the Imola World Championships, both with the the Dutch national team.

Four of the 11 victories on the international calendar also came from Van der Breggen, while other wins came from Van den Broek-Blaak, Dideriksen, D'hoore and Majerus.

Once again, the team proved their strength, cohesion, and all-round ability throughout an array of events - everything from one-day races to sprints and mountainous stage races.

Anna van der Breggen

World Champion Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) (Image credit: SD Worx)

Key riders

Anna van der Breggen: Van der Breggen had an outstanding 2020 season, arguably one of the best of her career to date, which is a massive feat considering her sparkling palmarès. 

She started the season with an overall victory at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana before racing was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon the re-opening of the revised season in August, Van der Breggen went on to win the road race title at the Dutch Championships, the time trial title at the European Championships, the overall title at the Giro Rosa, a sixth consecutive victory at La Flèche Wallonne, and then historic double world titles at the time trial and road race at the World Championships in Imola.

She will embark on her final season in the pro peloton, having announced that she will retire at the end of this season. She will end her career on a high note, wearing the rainbow jerseys in every road race and time trial she starts. It is not a parade season, however, and van der Breggen has stated goals of defending her title at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak: Van den Broek-Blaak is also scheduled to retire during the 2022 season and join van der Breggen as a sports director at SD Worx. She is one of the most accomplished Classics and one-day specialists in the peloton, having won Ronde van Drenthe and Gent-Wevelgem in 2016, the road race world title in 2017, Amstel Gold Race in 2018, three-times Le Samyn des Dames, and Tour of Flanders in 2020. A veteran of the team and the peloton, Van den Broek-Blaak will lead SD Worx through the Classics and flatter stage races, while also giving her experience to the team's younger riders.

Demi Vollering: Vollering joins SD Worx in 2021 having spent two seasons with Parkhotel Valkenburg. She has quickly become one of the most promising talents on the Women's WorldTour with strong performances: 5th at OVO Energy Women's Tour, 5th at GP de Plouay and Flèche Wallonne, and 3rd at Liège-Bastogne-Liège all in 2019. She went on to podium finishes: third at both Flèche Wallonne and La Course in 2020. Going forward, and under her new team SD Worx in 2021, watch as Vollering continues her development in the hilly Classics and even in the mountainous stage races like the Giro Rosa.

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio: The new esport world champion is one of the most versatile riders in women's cycling. She is always a contender in the spring Classics, particularly during Ardennes week, but also one of the best climbers in the world and a GC contender at the Giro Rosa. Moolman-Pasio has had a range of bad luck and injuries during the previous two seasons but she is looking for a fresh start this year as one of the leaders at SD Worx, where she gives the team a new card to play in one-day races and stage races.

OUDENAARDE BELGIUM OCTOBER 18 Arrival Chantal Van Den Broek Blaak of The Netherlands and Boels Dolmans Cycling Team Celebration during the 17th Tour of Flanders 2020 Ronde van Vlaanderen Women Elite a 1356km stage from Oudenaarde to Oudenaarde RVV20 FlandersClassic on October 18 2020 in Oudenaarde Belgium Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak wins Tour of Flanders (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Strengths

SD Worx have always had a team of multiple champions and the ability to switch between them with ease during both one-day and stage races on the Women's WorldTour. They own the concept that as long as the team wins, everyone wins, and so deciding on who that winner is, on any given day, can sometimes be arranged mid-race depending on the how the event evolves and how each rider is feeling. Honesty, communication and cohesion are, therefore, vital to the team's success. 

A rider as strong and prolific a winner as Anna van der Breggen is often the one standing on the top step of the podium at major events, but she is more than willing to support her teammates and let them shine. In addition to Van der Breggen's versatility in virtually all terrain, the team also have one-day specialists such as Van den Broek-Blaak, Jolien D'hoore, Amy Pieters and new arrival Elena Cecchini, while also lining out a series of GC contenders with Christine Majerus and Moolman-Pasio.

Weaknesses

It is very hard to find a weakness with SD Worx. However, if we look to the future of the team, the pending retirement of Van der Breggen and Van den Broek-Blaak leaves a gaping hole in their roster, even if they will be moving into director roles in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

How much the team invest in the development of their younger riders remains to be seen, but that progress must start in 2021 with their up-and-coming talents Demi Vollering, 24, and Lonneke Uneken, Anna Shackley and Niamh Fisher-Black, who are all 20.

These four riders represent the future of SD Worx and the future of the Women's WorldTour, and they will need time and support to properly prepare to take over from their veteran teammates.

There is always going to be a bit of trial-and-error and learning curve that happen in the changing of the guard, and we can expect some of that development progress to happen during the 2021 season.

Verdict

SD Worx begin this season with financial stability, a new WorldTeam licence, a powerful team, and with champions for every type of race on the Women's WorldTour. 

We can expect this team to play a major factor in everything from mountains, sprints, and time trials. They may not dominate the women's peloton like in years past but that is only a testament to the growth of the Women's WorldTour. There are now other teams that have stepped up and made their mark, including Trek-Segafredo. 

SD Worx will have the strength of Anna van der Breggen for one more season, but they will not need to rely so heavily on her. With the addition of riders like Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Demi Vollering, the team have ample cards to play in all terrain. Plus, their four up-and-coming young riders will be watching, learning, practicing, and waiting in the wings of their veteran teammates until it is their turn to shine in the future.