- Manager: Rachel Hedderman
- Squad size: 14
- Average age: 28
Renamed EF Education-TIBCO-SVB for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, the longest-running women’s team in North America has moved to the big leagues of pro cycling with a newly-minted Women’s WorldTour designation.
The team had modest beginnings as Team TIBCO 17 years ago from a bike shop in California and a handful of riders, founded by former pro Linda Jackson, a six-time Canadian national champion. TIBCO Software Inc began its support in 2005, while Silicon Valley Bank joined in 2006, for the team to compete as a UCI Continental programme for the past 15 years.
The mission to provide opportunities for women to compete in a competitive cycling environment and to pursue racing at the Olympic Games continues for Jackson, who still owns and operates the team independently from the Slipstream organisation that runs the men’s WorldTour EF Education-Easypost squad. Major enhancements include an increase in salaries for full-time riders, to match the men’s WorldTour minimum, and supporting a development team, Fount Cycling Guild.
The 2022 team is composed of 14 riders from six different countries, with its most significant addition being all-rounder Lizzie Banks of Great Britain. Among a quartet of climbers are 23-year-old climber Letiza Borghesi, who is a past stage winner of the Giro Donne, Omer Shapira from Canyon-SRAM and a Rally Cycling (now Human Powered Health) pair - Sara Poidevin and Krista Doebel-Hickok, who previously raced with TIBCO from 2014-2017.
Other new signings are Canadian Magdeleine Vallieres-Mills, who spent two years with the World Cycling Centre programme, and German Kathrin Hammes, who won the overall at 2019 Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour and took the QOM crown in last year’s edition.
Returning riders include German Tanja Erath and a number of Americans - reigning US Pro Road National Champion Lauren Stephens who begins her ninth season with the team, reigning US cyclo-cross champion Clara Honsinger, Emily Newsom, and Emma Langley. Abi Smith of Great Britain and America Veronica Ewers signed extensions from mid-season transfers last year.
After three years of successfully directing the team, Rachel Hedderman will step up to the general manager position and Christel Herremans will become the European manager.
How did they fare in 2021?
The five road victories last season don’t tell the full story of the team, as their multidimensional talent racked up more than seven wins across cyclo-cross and gravel disciplines.
March opened with several solid top-10 rides in Spring Classics for Kristen Faulkner. Her fourth place finish in the bunch sprint came after spending the second half of the 117km race in the breakaway. She and Stephens then claimed seventh and 10th places, respectively, in a windy edition of Gent-Wevelgem.
Faulkner continued to power her way across unforgiving roads on the WorldTour calendar of one-day races and took 10th at Tour of Flanders, 15th at Amstel Gold Race and 17th at La Flèche Wallonne Féminine. In May, the American rider continued her aggressive riding and took two top 10s at LOTTO Thüringen Ladies Tour.
Meanwhile, Sarah Gigante was on her own hot streak after winning the Australian time trial championship for elite women and she finished 11th at Dwars door Vlaanderen, her best European result to date.
The American contingency returned home for the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships in June, and the team delivered Stephens to her first US Pro road national title, Faulkner finishing sixth, Honsinger 13th, and Newsom 18th on a hot day in Knoxville, Tennessee after 114.6 hilly kilometres.
The team had to withdraw before stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia Donne due to a COVID-19 positive case was discovered in the team, so shifted focus to August stage races at Ladies Tour of Norway and Joe Martin Stage Race. Faulkner won the opening stage in Norway and finished third on GC, while Langley won two stages of Joe Martin and a trio of riders accounted for the top six spots in the GC - Ewers second, Honsinger fourth and Langley sixth.
Ewers was a mid-season signee from Fount Cycling, who finished on the podium at US Pro road race alongside future teammate Stephens. Briton Abi Smith began her pro road season with TIBCO-SVB in August as well and she finished 17th on GC in her WorldTour race debut at Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, the best result for squad in Spain.
The main targets were events on the Women's WorldTour racing calendar during the year, as the predominately-based North American squad faced incredibly sparse racing options at home due to coronavirus-related cancellations. That opened the door for off-road opportunities, with Stephens and Langley going one-two in two gravel events, Stephens winning 100-mile Unbound Gravel and Langley taking 82-mile Rooted Vermont. Stephens also took the top prize at Gravel Worlds and was second for elite women at SBT GRVL on the black course. Newsom won Gravel Locos and rode to third place in Unbound Gravel 200.
Gone from the 2021 squad are 21-year-old Australian talent Sara Gigante, who landed at Movistar, and Faulkner, who took her all-rounds skills to Team BikeExchange-Jayco.
Lauren Stephens: Stephens, who has been with the American outfit since 2013, won overall title and points classification at the 2020 Tour de l'Ardeche and took podiums at Santos Women's Tour Down Under in 2018 and the Amgen Tour of California in 2015. This past season she grabbed her first road title at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships in June, using an aggressive attack with teammate Honsinger on the final lap of the 30-kilometre circuit to ride solo across the line.
The Texas native had several rounds of racing in Europe, beginning with the Classics in the spring which saw her 10th at Gent-Wevelgem and in the top 20 for Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Brabantse Pijl. She raced La Course, Giro d'Italia Donne, Paris-Roubaix Femmes leading up to 20th on GC at The Women’s Tour, and in between prospered in off-road pursuits, winning Unbound Gravel 100, the 75-mile Gravel Worlds, and taking second on the 142-mile SBT GRVL black course and Rooted Vermont.
Lizzie Banks: In her four-year pro career so far, Banks burst on the scene in 2019 at Bigla Pro Cycling with 16 top 10s, including a stage win at the Giro d'Italia Donne. The next season she won another stage at the Giro Donne and had a second place at the GP de Plouay and sixth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Her 2021 season with Ceratizit-WNT was cut short in March after sustaining a head injury in a crash at Strade Bianche. Now recovered, the 31-year-old aims to get back to a full schedule.
Kathrin Hammes: The German veteran began her pro career with TIBCO-SVB in 2015 and made an early impact with a 12th place on GC at the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race. She had a number of high finishes in time trials in her three years with the team, and then showcased her climbing skills in her three years with Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling. Last year she won the mountains classification at the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour and was the second-best climber at Ceratizit Festival Elsy Jacobs.
Clara Honsinger: In her first season on the road, Honsinger was key to delivering Stephens to her first US national title at the USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships in June. She found a new gear to chase down a breakaway rider twice during the final two laps of the hilly circuit, the second time helping Stephens bridge to the front and riding solo to her first stars-and-stripes jersey. Honsinger transitioned in the fall to cyclo-cross and defended her championship jersey with a dominant performance at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships.
Veronica Ewers: A product of Fount Cycling Guild from the Pacific Northwest, Ewers was a surprising bronze medalist at the US Pro Championships in the road race in June and made an immediate impact at TIBCO-SVB when she moved in August. The 27-year-old dominated her first race as a pro, earning a podium on all four stages of the Joe Martin Stage Race and sweeping second place in each classification - GC, points and mountains. She traveled to Europe to finish the year, taking four top 10s at Tour Cycliste Feminin International de l'Ardeche and riding to eighth on the ITT at The Women’s Tour.
There’s a lot of synergy with this collection of riders. Stephens is reunited with seasoned pros Doebel-Hickok and Hammes, who both had success at TIBCO several years ago. They can help each other over bumpy terrain of one-day races and bring more options for stage racing.
The addition of a healthy Banks will add immediate depth for the full WorldTour schedule, as she exhibited an abundance of all-round skills prior to being sidelined for most of last year from the crash at Strade Bianche.
The team could suffer in its spring campaign with the absence of rising Australian star Gigante and the string of top 10s by Faulkner. There aren’t many proven, young riders on the roster for a WorldTour team, and the learning curve may be a bit abrupt for Vallieres-Mills, Borghesi and Smith.
It would not be a big surprise to see the number of wins on the road to hit double digits in the new year, as the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB programme is accustomed to the WorldTour calendar but they now have the talent to settle into a full schedule. While the budget may still be at a Continental team level, it has been used wisely in the acquisition of new talent, like landing Banks. The team has a good mix of skilled veterans with climbing abilities and eager newcomers. Even the expansion on the management side is a plus, with veterans Hedderman and Herremans and a few others.
“As we step up to WorldTour status, our strategy is to focus on finding emerging talent that we can mould into the next generation of top international riders,” Jackson said. “We have a diverse mix of multi-talented riders including climbers, all-rounders and stage winners and will build our calendar accordingly. In addition to the WorldTour we will also continue our alternative calendar emphasis, which is a great fit with EF.”
EF Education-TIBCO-SVB is solid and a long-awaited addition to the Women's WorldTour.
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