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2021 team preview: Team BikeExchange Women

Team BikeExchange 2021
(Image credit: Team BikeExchange)

As Mitchelton-Scott, the Australian squad finished the 2020 season as the third-ranked women's team behind powerhouses Trek-Segafredo and Boels Dolmans. With the departure of Annemiek van Vleuten to the Movistar Team, BikeExchange have lost the rider who claimed almost half of the entire team's points tally but have retained a strong core group and added some fresh talent.

Australians Jessica Allen, Grace Brown, Lucy Kennedy, Sarah Roy and Amanda Spratt, Kiwi Georgia Williams and Dutch rider Moniek Tenniglo keep the band together for the third year in a row, although they've lost Gracie Elvin to retirement over the winter. Briton Jessica Roberts and Dutch rider Janneke Ensing return for their second seasons with four new additions completing the roster: Slovenian Urška Žigart, Spaniard Ane Santesteban, Italian Arianna Fidanza and Teniel Campbell from Trinidad & Tobago.

Without the dominant Van Vleuten to support, Team BikeExchange's riders will have fresh opportunities to lead the team and fight for their results, which will be important in an Olympic year as riders vie for selection to their national teams.

Manager: Brent Copeland

Team Size: 13

Average Age: 28.5

How did they fare in 2020?

Wins: 11

WorldRanking: 3rd

Van Vleuten's presence perhaps overshadowed the rest of the team's results in 2020 as she steamrolled the peloton in the coronavirus-shortened calendar, winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad before the lockdown and returning in July to take the trio of Spanish races - Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa, Clasica Femenina Navarra and Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria - before winning Strade Bianche and the European Road Championship. Van Vleuten was well on her way to winning the Giro Rosa, too, until a crash on stage 7 left her with a broken wrist and she was forced to drop out of the race.

The team began the season with Spratt taking out the win in the Australian road race championship, but missed out on a fourth straight win in the Santos Tour Down Under when Trek-Segafredo's Ruth Winder took the top step of the podium ahead of Sunweb's Liane Lippert, with Spratt taking the final podium spot. Kennedy used her climbing prowess to take out the two-stage Herald Sun Tour and Spratt scored another podium spot in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race before COVID-19 brought the calendar to a stop.

When racing resumed, it was the Van Vleuten show, although Brown claimed a fine second place behind Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.  Brown also took a commanding solo victory in Brabantse Pijl, Roy just missed the podiums in Gent-Wevelgem and Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne and was up there in the Tour of Flanders and Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta.

The team missed out in the only major stage race of the season, putting everything behind Van Vleuten in the Giro Rosa and coming away empty handed after Spratt was caught up in the same crash and suffered a concussion and shoulder injury that ended her season prematurely.

Key Riders

Australian road race champion Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) on stage 6 of the 2020 Giro Rosa

Australian road race champion Amanda Spratt at the 2020 Giro Rosa (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Amanda Spratt: Spratt, 33, a three-time Tour Down Under winner, twice on the podium at the World Championships, and a two-time podium finisher in the Giro Rosa, will be the team's overall leader in 2021. A powerful climber who is also handy in a bunch sprint, Spratt is a versatile rider who has been a loyal understudy for Van Vleuten but will be a formidable and capable rival for the Dutch rider this season.

Spratt has been with the organisation since it was founded in 2012. Her best year was arguably 2018 when she won the Emakumeen Bira, won a stage, rode a day in the race lead and finished third overall in the Giro Rosa, was second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, was third at Amstel Gold and second to Anna van der Breggen at Worlds. Look for Spratt to take the lead in the Giro Rosa and the tougher one-day races for Team BikeExchange in 2021.

Grace Brown: At 28, Brown is coming into her own with the team, and her victory in Brabantse Pijl and second place in Liège instilled more confidence in her abilities. She will be given more opportunities to lead this season, according to Team Director Martin Vestby. After renewing with the team, Brown said she was looking forward to a more open team environment.

Lucy Kennedy: A notable climber, Kennedy, 32, has taken back-to-back wins in the Herald Sun Tour, won the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa and Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria in 2019 and the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche and the Oceania time trial title in 2017. Her main role in 2021 will be to support Spratt, but, much like Spratt had under Van Vleuten, Kennedy will have some of her own chances for success this year.

Sarah Roy: At 34, Roy is one of the senior members of the team and as in previous years will be a key support rider and protected sprinter in the team this season. After renewing, Roy said the changes to the line-up would keep the team on its toes. "It'll make sure that we're not complacent and with the changes with riders and a few bits and pieces, I think it's a good thing so I am really looking forward to it."

Teniel Campbell: One of the most exciting additions to Team BikeExchange is Campbell, who at 23 years of age, is only just finding her way in the peloton. Tall and lean, with a powerful sprint, Campbell landed her first major podium finish at the Vuelta CV Feminas last February. Campbell, racing with the UCI's World Cycling Centre in 2019, swept the Kreiz Breizh Elites Dames in 2019, taking both stages, the overall, points and young riders classifications in addition to the U23 Pan American time trial title and a stage in the Women's Tour of Thailand. Team BikeExchange hope to help Campbell develop to her full potential in the coming seasons.

Lucy Kennedy (Mitchelton-Scott) wins her second Women’s Herald Sun Tour title in as many years

Lucy Kennedy won her second Women's Herald Sun Tour title last year (Image credit: Con Chronis)

Strengths

Team BikeExchange will have an advantage over Van Vleuten's Movistar Team in that Spratt and her teammates have a long history together and can hit the ground running when the racing starts.

The experience that the core of the team have together is perhaps their biggest strength, as is the well-oiled machinery of the organisation. With Spratt, the team has a solid and seasoned veteran to chase after the general classification, and together with Brown and Roy, they've got the one-day races covered.

The squad also excel at carefully developing new talent and are a welcoming home for Campbell to thrive as she finds her feet in the bigger races. With Žigart and Santesteban, they've added new climbing power and Fidanza is a promising sprinter.

Weaknesses

The loss of Van Vleuten leaves an obvious gap and big shoes to fill at Team BikeExchange. Brown said all the riders just need experience, know how to position and use energy in certain races to step it up a notch. "Without Annemiek van Vleuten there, it’s going to be really interesting for the team, and for the other girls as well – not just me – who see themselves as stepping up."

There are few weaknesses to mention with the team, although you could argue they lack a top sprinter. But given the right circumstances and some confidence, Campbell will handily fill that role.

Verdict

Team BikeExchange might have lost a hitter but one could argue that the team will be stronger and more balanced without Van Vleuten. They've spent the better part of five years with the Dutch rider in a starring role but now it's time for the understudies to step into the spotlight. It will be exciting to see how Spratt fares as a sole leader and to track how Campbell develops with this team.