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2022 Team Preview: Human Powered Health Women

Olivia Ray (left) returns for sprint train and will be joined by Mieke Kröger (bottom right) and Marit Raaijmakers on 2022 squad
Olivia Ray (left) returns for sprint train and will be joined by Mieke Kröger (bottom right) and Marit Raaijmakers on 2022 squad (Image credit: Getty Images and Human Powered Health)

Who?

  • Manager: Joanne Kiesanowski
  • Squad size: 12
  • Average age: 23

In 2012 Minneapolis‐based Circuit Global Sports Management launched a women’s team, Optum Pro Cycling, which became Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies and in 2016 changed to Rally Cycling. The squad was successful on the Continental level with scattered results in Europe, such as a Gent-Wevelgem win in 2014, a BeNe Ladies Tour stage win the next year and a Tour Down Under stage win in 2020, but most of their action was across North America with top results at Tour of the Gila, Colorado Classic, national championships and various criteriums.

To up the ante and guarantee spots at Women’s WorldTour races, the team earned a promotion to the WorldTour for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. To complete the transformation, a name change was made for the women’s team, along with Circuit Sport’s men’s ProTeam - Human Powered Health.

For months the team have prepared for the move to the top tier, bringing on veterans with experience in European races and an influx of emerging talent who have exhibited at early ages they are ready to learn and develop as future leaders. German Olympian Mieke Kröger (Team Coop – Hitec Products) and Dutch speedster Evy Kuijpers (Liv Racing) were key additions to strengthen the team’s Classics roster. 

In the climbing department, the Dutch duo from Parkhotel Valkenburg, Marit Raaijmakers and Nina Buijsman, should make immediate impacts. An unknown will be Eri Yonamine of Japan, who had surgery in October for iliac artery endofibrosis, but brings six years of extensive experience with consistent top 20 results in one-day contests and hilly stage races.

The future looks bright for an invasion of freshmen, under-23 talents Henrietta Christie, from New Zealand, and Barbara Malcotti, from Italy, as well as 18-year-olds from US-based LUX Cycling, Kaia Schmid, silver medalist in the junior road race at Worlds, and Makayla MacPherson, just three spots behind Schmid at Worlds and the reigning junior national road champion.

Only a trio of riders return to the squad, led by Kiwi sensation Olivia Ray, who added the national track title in the 10km scratch race this year to the criterium crown she won in 2020. Lily Williams, a sprinter who has focused on Team Pursuit medals for Team USA in the past two years, and US women’s U23 cylco-cross national champion Katie Clouse round out the full roster.

“We believe that our seasoned racers will be valuable assets in guiding our young racers; both on and off the bike. Human Powered Health believes we have constructed a team which is well rounded with all types of racers to put our best foot forward while shifting into World Tour status,” Joanne Kiesanowski, women’s team director for Human Powered Health, told Cyclingnews.

Rally Cycling renamed Human Powered Health in 2022

Rally Cycling has been rebranded as Human Powered Health in 2022 (Image credit: Human Powered Health)

How did they fare in 2021?

Wins: 7

Ranking: 22nd

Competing in their final year as a Continental programme, the bulk of the roster was a collection of US riders focused on a domestic schedule. Blazing a trail to the top step of the podium was New Zealander Ray, who accounted for all seven of the team’s victories in 2021. Six of her wins were at criteriums, including the two richest bike races on the US calendar last season - the Grant Park Criterium in Georgia and Into the Lion’s Den in California. 

The team had good results in Spain to start the season at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana,  Krista Doebel-Hickok tearing up the climbs to win the QOM prize and Heidi Franz taking the sprint classification. At the 2.WWT Vuelta a Burgos Feminas, Clara Koppenburg just missed the GC podium by finishing fourth. At the end of the season, Franz grabbed a podium on stage 4 of the Joe Martin Stage Race and finished third overall. All three of these riders have now departed for other teams.

Though not part of the road wins tally, Clouse continued her exploits in cyclo-cross and won two national titles, one as top collegiate women’s rider for Colorado Mesa College and the other as U23 women’s champion. On the road she had two top 20 results on stages at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and a top 20 in the one-day Navarra Women’s Elite Classics.

The major triumph for Human Powered Health was the confirmation of gaining Women’s WorldTour status for the next two seasons.

In for 2022: Mieke Kröger (Team Coop - Hitec Products), Marit Raaijmakers and Nina Buysman (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Barbara Malcotti (Valcar-Travel & Service), Evy Kuijpers (Liv Racing), Kaia Schmid and Makayla MacPherson (LUX Cycling), Henrietta Christie (BePink), Eri Yonamine (TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank).

Out for 2022: Leigh Ann Ganzar (retired), Emma White (retired), Sara Poidevin and Kristabel Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), Clara Koppenburg (Cofidis), Heidi Franz (InstaFund La Prima), Holly Breck (Torelli-Assure Cayman), Madeline Bemis (unattached).

Key riders

BRUGES BELGIUM SEPTEMBER 22 Mieke Kroger of Germany sprints during the 94th UCI Road World Championships 2021 Team Time Trial Mixed Relay a 445km race from KnokkeHeist to Bruges flanders2021 TT on September 22 2021 in Bruges Belgium Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

Mieke Kröger takes a turn in gold-medal effort for Germany in Team Time Trial Mixed Relay at 2021 World Championships (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Mieke Kröger: The biggest name to sign with Human Powered Health for 2022 has been Kröger, who captured gold medals as part of Germany’s Team Pursuit squad at the Tokyo Olympic Games and the Mixed Relay TTT squad at Worlds in Flanders. The 28-year-old competed the past two seasons with the Hitec Products organisation, taking second overall at the Baloise Ladies Tour and third at Chrono des Nations last season. The time-trial specialist excels over Classics-style terrain and at short stage races. She joins on a one-year contract and is expected to make an immediate impact as a team leader. 

Olivia Ray: Suffering a broken ankle in a massive pileup midway through stage 3 of Setmana Ciclista Valenciana turned out to be just a setback for the former Kiwi crit champion last spring. She returned two months later to a full criterium calendar in the US and quickly rediscovered the will to be aggressive. She was on the podium on July 4 at the Alabama Cycling Classic - Piedmont Criterium, then followed two weeks later for her first win of the year at The Ray Whalen Builders Tour of Lake Ellyn. She won six total crits, including Into the Lion’s Den event, and took a road race victory at South Chicago Kermesse & Bicycle Celebration, which was part of Intelligentsia Cup. The team expects her to shine at some of the punchy Classics, like Brabantse Pijl and Tour of Flanders. 

Evy Kuijpers: A Classics rider who is not afraid of the elements, the versatile Dutch rider said, “I’m a rider that really likes bad circumstances, like the cold and wind.” She raced with the Liv programme the past three seasons, getting her start in cyclo-cross before turning professional in 2014. She is a sprinter with a big kick who doesn’t mind using her speed for a solid lead out. She has taken top 10s in a number of one-day races including a third place at Omloop van Borsele in 2018 and eighth at Drentse Acht van Westerveld in 2019. Her strong rouleur-style experience will be a valuable addition, with opportunities for her to grab results for herself.

Marit Raaijmakers: The last four seasons at the Continental-level Parkhotel Valkenburg team, the Dutch prodigy won the GC title and mountains classification at Watersley Womens Challenge, which was her first UCI win. She followed that with a top 10 and best young rider accolades at the Trophée des Grimpeuses Vresse-sur-Semois, then was 13th overall at the Giro dell'Emilia Internazionale Donne Elite. Only 22 years old, she describes herself as a strong, tactically-minded rider who has a knack for good positioning, a crossover skill she has developed from track cycling. Look for her to make a mark in the Ardennes Classics.

Barbara Malcotti: The Italian spent three years at Valcar-Travel & Service where she thrived in the mountains. She placed fourth in the young rider standings at the 2021 Giro d’Italia Donne and had two strong appearances in one-day races to close out 2021 - fourth at Tre Valli Varesine and eighth at 1.Pro Giro dell'Emilia. She was fourth in women’s junior road race at the 2018 World Championships at Innsbruck. At only 21 years of age, Malcotti could be one of the developing GC contenders for the future. 

Henrietta Christie: The 19-year-old had four top-20 finishes at the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche in September and won best young rider classification. She is the reigning U23 New Zealand time trial champion, having won the ITT crown as a junior the year before and finishing second in the junior road race. She’s a solid addition to the sprint train to help compatriot Ray.

Strengths

Katie Clouse (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) wins national title number 34

Katie Clouse win the U23 women's national title in cyclo-cross at DuPage County, Illinois, her 34th career national title (Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

The renovated roster for Human Powered Health has been built for WorldTour success, with a balanced mix of experienced riders and eager young talent. There should be both short-term and long-term gains with this group, featuring sprinters and climbers ready to prove the team is worthy of its top-tier status. 

The physical strength of riders like Kröger, Kuijpers and Raaijmakers who have ridden many years and kilometres in the European peloton should earn podium placements early on. Their ability to communicate should also shorten the learning curve for the abundance of U23 riders.  

Clouse will be a rider to watch later in spring, as she will get a break after UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships and the team expects her to contend at the challenging terrain at Strade Bianche. Malcotti will be a rider to watch at Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne. 

“I think we will see some surprises with our young GC hopes as they develop the confidence to be team leaders. I'm looking forward to seeing how we do with our fast finishers in the bunch sprints and also excited for the complexity of the spring classics given our deep seeded European experienced riders now.” Kiesanowski said.

Weaknesses

While Ray carried the team last year in US races, she will now have to transition from criterium chaos to Classics conditions, adjusting to a wider variety of courses and climate conditions. The European veterans surrounding her should help with the adjustment, but it may be a long learning curve. 

The majority of the team is 23 or younger, so will the lack of depth and experience be a factor? Probably so in the first season. All the youngsters have battled on a world stage, just not for back-to-back-to-back weeks of aggressive riding. There may be some bumps in the road with extra duty for veterans like Kröger and Williams, especially if they still need time off to train and compete with track aspirations. 

“We are prepared to be patient and know the racing in Europe, especially at the WWT level, will be a huge step for some of them,” Kiesanowski said about the developing riders. “But the hunger and desire is there to be the best, so we are ready to help show them the way.”

Verdict

2022 will be a year of focus and allowing younger riders to “build their engines”, according to Kiesanowski. The veterans, ranging from just 22 to 30 years of age, should be formidable in bunch sprints.

The first stage race of the season will be in Spain, with the new orange colours emblazoned with magenta and purple making a splash at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in February. Then a slate of one-day targeted races that include Strade Bianche, Nokere Koerse and Amstel Gold, which will be an early indication of how the sprint train is working. Look for Human Powered Health to be aggressive; the podiums and wins should come in time once the communications and experience sync with the legs.

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Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in  Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).