3 questions facing each Women's WorldTeam ahead of season restart

UCI Women's Teams racing on the 2019 Women's WorldTour
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Many of the women's teams will be back in action at the restart of the revised Women's WorldTour calendar, which is set to include 15 events between August 1 and November 8.

Only one Women's WorldTour race took place – the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in February – before the racing season was shut down in March due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Cyclingnews asks three key questions facing the eight Women's WorldTeams along with a handful of Continental Teams, in alphabetical order.

Alé BTC Ljubljana

Is the team all-in for Marta Bastianelli?

Marta Bastianelli left her long-time team Ale Cipollini for pastures new last year at Virtu Cycling. When the Danish outfit folded, however, it left her without a contract and she was welcomed back to the newly named for Alé BTC Ljubljana for 2020. The Italian road race national champion is one of the strongest one-day racers in the peloton, and got off to a good start with a victory at Vuelta CV Feminas and double second places at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Omloop van het Hageland before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. 

Whether her team can support her in the upcoming major races on the revised calendar, including a defence of her title at Tour of Flanders, remains to be seen.

Can the new formation prove they belong on the WWT?

Alé BTC Ljubljana was one of the first teams to commit to securing a four-year WorldTeam licence, and now it's time to prove they belong in the top ranks. It's almost a brand new team as they added Slovenian company BTC as a second title sponsor. A handful of riders from the former BTC Ljubljana squad came over to join Bastianelli: Tatiana Guderzo, Eri Yonamine and Mavi Garcia. Overall, the team has some proven talent that will shine in the one-day races.

Will a new team make the difference for Mavi Garcia?

A surprise signing was Mavi Garcia from the Movistar Women's Team. The Spanish all-rounder has spent most of her career racing for Spanish outfits such as Bizkaia-Durango and Movistar. She is a powerful overall contender that has secured second places at the Tour de Yorkshire, the Tour de l’Ardeche, and third overall at the Vuelta a Burgos and fifth overall at the Emakumeen Bira. She's missing that big win, and a new team with a fresh environment might make all the difference.


Will Kasia Niewiadoma finally win Strade Bianche?

Kasia Niewiadoma has been on the podium at Strade Bianche on four consecutive occasions but has never stood on the top step. It's one of her favourite races of the year, and always a target, but she been beaten to the finish line by Lizzie Deignan (2016), Elisa Longo Borghini (2017), Anna van der Breggen (2018) and Annemiek van Vleuten (2019). The Italian Women's WorldTour race was postponed in March due to COVID-19 but was rescheduled to kick off the revised calendar on August 1. Look out for Niewiadoma to race for the win in Siena.

Will their consistent core roster lead to more success?

Canyon-SRAM have 15 returning riders from the previous year, with the only new signing being 2019 Zwift Academy winner Jessica Pratt. Team owner Ronny Lauke believes that keeping the core roster intact has built a strong foundation based on trust and growing experiences. The team was looking to secure 20 victories this year with a higher ratio of Women's WorldTour wins. The revised WWT calendar now features only 15 events, and so the team, like most teams, might be satisfied just to start a race this year.

Could we see Pauline Ferrand-Prévot race the first-ever women's Paris-Roubaix?

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot has been contracted to race with Canyon-SRAM since 2017 but has had a primary focus on mountain biking in the last couple of years. She is the reigning mountain bike world champion, and a former road and cyclo-cross world champion. Although she is focused on the mountain bike World Cup calendar and the Tokyo Olympic Games, with most of the top-tier off-road series cancelled and the Olympic Games postponed until next year, perhaps we will see Ferrand-Prévot start a few road races, and maybe even the first-ever women's Paris-Roubaix.


How many races will Marianne Vos win?

Marianne Vos won 19 races last year, some of which contributed to her overall victory at the 2019 UCI Women's WorldTour. It was an incredible display of strength – particularly her four stage wins at the Giro Rosa followed by a win at La Course by Le Tour de France. 

It was one of her strongest seasons since returning from a hiatus in 2016. The revised calendar has effectively placed all of the major races of the year into three months, and so Vos, like everyone else, will have to pick and choose which events to focus on. That means she may not have an opportunity to amass as many victories this year. Cyclingnews understands that she will target races like the Giro Rosa and the inaugural Paris-Roubaix.

Will the addition of Lars Boom as performance manager help the team's chances of winning the inaugural Paris-Roubaix?

CCC-Liv have hired retired pro Lars Boom as the team's new performance manager. His role is specifically designed to support the team, including Marianne Vos, in its bid to win the first-ever women's Paris-Roubaix on October 25. He will lead the team at two separate recons of the unique cobblestone sectors of 'The Hell of the North', and give the riders his top tips for positioning, anticipation and equipment. Boom also hopes to sit in the team car alongside directeur sportif Jeroen Blijlevens to help with the tactics as the race plays out.

How has the coronavirus affected CCC-Liv's future sponsorship?

When CCC decided to end its sponsorship of the men's WorldTour team, concern also shifted to the CCC-Liv programme, with questions about whether the Polish footwear company would continue as title sponsor. The teams are two separate entities, and a spokesperson for CCC-Liv has assured media that sponsorship contracts have been paid and are fully up-to-date. That's good news for the 2020 season, but the question still remains: will CCC financially back the women's programme in 2021?

FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope

Will Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig secure a big one-day win with her new outfit?

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was the biggest signing of the year for FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, but due to COVID-19, she hasn't yet raced in the blue-and-white kit of the French WorldTeam. The Danish rider is poised to win a major one-day race after last season, when she finished third at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the Tour of Flanders and La Course by Le Tour de France. 

Will the team progress from consistent top 10s to regular podium appearances?

The team launched in 2008 and has now become one of the top teams in the world thanks to committed sponsors and devotion to developing young talent. In recent years, the team has proven that it is capable of consistently finishing inside the top 10 at major events, placing them inside the top 15 teams in the world ranking. Securing a WorldTeam licence and signing a rider like Uttrup Ludwig has given the team the potential to go for those big race wins this year.

Can Brodie Chapman make her mark on the European climbs?

Uttrup Ludwig may be the stand-out signing this year, but the team has also brought in a powerful climber in Brodie Chapman, which shouldn't be overlooked. 

The Australian has spent the last two seasons racing for the American-based Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank, scoring overall victories at the Women's Herald Sun Tour and Tour of the Gila. She was second overall at the Colorado Classic and finished fifth overall at the Tour of California, too. Look for Chapman to make her mark on the climbs in her full-time European race debut this year.


Will Annemiek van Vleuten dominate the late-season calendar?

Annemiek van Vleuten closed out last season with a 105km solo breakaway performance that netted her the victory in the elite women's road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire. The cycling world expected her to arrive into this season with the best possible form, especially after she had put in more hours than most on the bike during the off-season. She did not disappoint with a season-opening victory at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad – her first in the rainbow jersey. The season shut down almost immediately after that win, leaving many to wonder if she would re-do all that preparation over again to dominate the revised calendar between August 1 and November 8. Van Vleuten says she's ready to re-start with a focus on Strade Bianche, the Giro Rosa and her defence at the World Championships.

Will the team support Amanda Spratt's quest to win an Ardennes Classic?

Amanda Spratt has been so close to winning a spring Classic in the last three years that she can almost taste it. She has a love of the Ardennes Classics, and has stood on the podium at the Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. This year, the Ardennes Classics will be held in the autumn with a complete turnaround: Flèche Wallonne will be held on September 30, Liège-Bastogne-Liège on October 4 and Amstel Gold will close out the series on October 10.

Van Vleuten and Spratt normally hold co-leadership roles at these races, but with the revised calendar cramming in 15 Women's WorldTour races into just three months, it's possible the team will support Spratt as the sole leader at the Ardennes.

Is the team in a financial position to renew Van Vleuten's contract beyond 2020?

Van Vleuten was one of many riders that took a substantial pay-cut during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to help keep the team afloat. The team then went through some instability when it announced that the Manuela Fundación would take over sponsorship, only to have the deal fall through. 

Team owner Gerry Ryan's commitment to back the team has reportedly 'steadied the ship'. Van Vleuten is at the end of a contract year, and currently negotiating with other teams, so the question is: will Mitchelton-Scott be in a financial position to renew with the world champion, who is in high demand?

Movistar Team Women 

Will Movistar focus on the Spanish one-day races?

Movistar's women have made steady progress in their first two seasons racing in the top-tier of women's cycling. Acquiring a four-year WorldTeam licence shows that management is committed to developing their women's programme

The team initially had a focus on developing Spanish talent on home soil, and they were successful with three victories – all in Spain – last year. The revised calendar will kick off at the three one-day races – the Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa, the Clasica Femenina Navarra and the Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria – at the end of July, so expect strong performances from Movistar. However, with a new roster that includes more international talent, watch for their continued progress on the Women's WorldTour.

Will their an international roster help Movistar in top-tier racing?

The team retained its core of Spanish riders but took the steps to bring in a more international roster this year. They hired a series of riders from the former Ale Cipollini and Virtu Cycling teams, including sprinter Jelena Eric, climber Katrine Aalerud and experienced road captain Barbara Guarischi. This roster raises the level of the team in a way that was necessary to be competitive on the Women's WorldTour.

Did losing Sofia Bertizzolo affect the team's plan for 2020?

For a brief moment, Movistar Team Women had closed a two-year deal with one of the brightest up-and-coming talents in pro cycling, Sofia Bertizzolo. Not only did the Italian round out a more international roster, but she also gave them a solid leader to develop and support in the finals of the Women's WorldTour events. As it turned out, legal constraints prevented Bertizzolo from going ahead with the Spanish outfit, and she ended up agreeing to a contract with CCC-Liv instead. Movistar chose not to fill that spot on the roster, but have maintained their commitment to steady progress at the highest level of the sport.

Team Sunweb

How will Lorena Wiebes' mid-season transfer affect Sunweb?

Lorena Wiebes was resolute on cutting ties with Parkhotel Valkenburg, and there were a handful of team waiting in the wings to scoop up the number-one-ranked rider in the world. 

She chose to sign a nearly five-year deal with Team Sunweb that will see her through to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The Dutch champion secured 16 victories last year and is one of the fastest sprinters in the world. She joins a team that includes punchy sprinters like Coryn Rivera and Leah Kirchmann. While all three are fast, they each specialise in different types of courses and sprint finals. Rivera has proven strongest on challenging and hilly terrain, such as the Tour of Flanders; Kirchmann is an all-rounder and a strong time triallist. What Wiebes brings to the table is a sprint that is almost unchallenged on flat and fast finishes. The revised calendar has plenty of racing to go around, and so the addition of Wiebes will only help to raise the level of their game this autumn.

How long will Liane Lippert lead the Women's WorldTour?

Liane Lippert won the first race on the 2020 Women's WorldTour at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race before the cycling season was shut down due to the coronavirus. The top-tier calendar will resume at Strade Bianche on August 1 when Lippert – if selected to compete – will finally be able to wear the prestigious series leader's jersey. She leads the series with 400 points, with Astana's Arlenis Sierra in second place with 320 points and Amanda Spratt in third place with 260 points. With all the major races packed into just three months, the leader's jersey could change hands often.

Can Juliette Labous crack the top-10 GC at the Giro Rosa?

Juliette Labous is one of the strongest up-and-coming climbers and overall contenders in the peloton. She's only 21 but has been quietly developing on Team Sunweb since 2017. In that time, she has finished inside the top 10 overall at the Tour of California, the Ladies Tour of Norway and the Tour de Yorkshire. The most telling result, however, is her 11th place at the 10-day Giro Rosa last year against riders of the highest calibre. The Giro Rosa, normally held in July, has been moved to September 11-19 as part of the revised calendar. The organisers haven't revealed the route yet, but if it's another mountainous affair, it could be Labous' year to crack the top 10.


Will the team extend with Lizzie Deignan?

Lizzie Deignan made her return to the peloton at the beginning of last year following the birth of her first child. Trek-Segafredo have backed her pursuit to win a second world title and a gold medal at the Olympic Games. She originally signed a two-year deal with the intent to retire after the Tokyo Olympic Games. However, with the event postponed to next summer and the UCI Road World World Championships set to take place in Belgium at the end of 2021, she'll likely be targeting those events and looking for a contract renewal that will see her racing for potentially another full season.

Where will the team support Lucinda Brand's leadership role?

Lucinda Brand joined Trek-Segafredo with an expressed interest in leading the American outfit. Brand is an all-rounder with strengths in time trialling, climbing, sprinting and racing for the overall classification. She has spent much of her career on other teams as a super-domestique, but look out for her to shine in finals of the most important races on the revised calendar.

Will Elynor Backstedt recover in time to have her moment to shine in the Classics?

Trek-Segafredo were ecstatic to announced the signing of Elynor Backstedt to the team in 2020. It was her first professional contract out of the junior ranks, and she was looking forward to testing her legs in the cobbled Classics, while also learning from her more veteran teammates. Unfortunately, the 18-year-old crashed while mountain biking this spring and sustained a fractured tibia. Most of the major one-day races on the Women's WorldTour have been moved to the autumn, but it's unclear if she will be recovered enough to compete this season.


Boels Dolmans

Does the powerful Dutch team need a WorldTeam licence?

Boels Dolmans has been the number-one-ranked women's team for the last five consecutive seasons. The current roster includes former world champions Amalie Dideriksen (2016), Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak (2017) and Anna van der Breggen (2018). 

The team did not secure a WorldTeam licence because, during the application process last year, they were still in search of new title sponsors after Boels Rental and Dolmans announced they would both end their contracts with the team after the 2020 season. The team found a replacement sponsor in SD Worx, and they plan on applying for a top-tier licence for 2021, but do they really need it? The team will be invited to every WorldTour race on the calendar due to their overall world ranking. Despite being a tier lower than the eight WorldTeams, they are still the strongest team in the world.

Is Anna van der Breggen ready and motivated to win?

Anna van der Breggen announced in May that she will retire at the end of 2021 and move into a sports director role at SD Worx. She has won almost everything there is to win in professional bike racing: a gold medal in the road race and a bronze medal in the time trial at the 2016 Olympic Games, the road race world champion's title in 2018 and the Giro Rosa in 2015 and 2017. She's also the five-time consecutive winner of Flèche Wallonne (2015-2019), is twice the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2017-18), and the winner of the Amstel Gold Race in 2017 and the Tour of Flanders in 2018.

Her retirement announcement isn't a surprise, though, as she has indicated a need for change in the past few years to keep her motivation going in the sport. The cycling world hopes she has just enough motivation left to close out a dazzling career with her trademark dominant victories.

Will Jolien D'hoore have an opportunity at the Tour of Flanders?

Boels Dolmans signed Belgian sprinter Jolien D'hoore for the 2019 season to bolster the Classics squad. Her spring campaign was derailed, however, by a broken collarbone, but she came back to win a stage of the Emakumeen Bira and two stages at the OVO Energy Women's Tour. She was looking forward to showcasing her sprint at the spring Classics this year but the racing was shut down due to COVID-19. Look for D'hoore on the start line of all the major one-day Classics, including Tour of Flanders, a home race that she has always wanted to win.

Valcar-Travel & Service

Will Valvar support Teniel Campbell to a big Classics victory?

Valcar-Travel & Service have signed one of the biggest talents in the sport in Teniel Campbell. She has enormous ambition in pro cycling, including winning a major one-day race and a world title, breaking world records and winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, she is currently living in Bottanuco, Italy, and preparing for her first season with the Italian team. 

She has already started off on a good note with two fifth places at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and the Omloop van het Hageland, and a third place at the Vuelta CV Feminas. She envisions her teammates leading her out to win a major one-day race, and they have the power to do it. The question is: will they put all their strength behind one rider?

Will the team's development of sprinters pay off in 2020?

Campbell isn't the only sprinter on the team. In fact, she joined the team because of their track record for developing talents like Elisa Balsamo, Ciara Consonni and Marta Cavalli, who have all experienced successes in the sprints during their professional careers. If these four riders work together in the sprints, there is no stopping them.

Does the team need a veteran captain?

Valcar-Travel & Service have an average age of 21.8, which includes the youngest, Federica Damiana Piergiovanni, at 18, and the oldest, Ilaria Sanguineti, at 26. Sanguineti is certainly the most experienced rider on the team, and has been successful with two stage wins and overall victory at the Tour de Bretagne Féminin, and podium finishes at Pajot Hills and a stage at the Ladies Tour of Norway. 

Should the team sign a more veteran on-road captain to support the development of the riders on the road? That's debatable, as they seem to have found a way of enjoying themselves while also remaining focused enough to be successful, striking the right balance for a development team.

Equipe Paule Ka

Has the team settled in with their new title sponsor?

The newly named Equipe Paule Ka was one of the most talked about teams of the spring. Formerly called Bigla-Katusha, the team faced financial uncertainty when Bigla informed them that they wished to withdraw 100 per cent of funding, with the Katusha clothing brand also temporarily struggling to pay sponsorship money, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business. The team started a crowd-funding campaign, but ultimately Paule Ka stepped in and signed a four-year deal to sponsor the team through 2024.

Is Clara Koppenburg ready for leadership?

Clara Koppenburg spent four years with the Bigla programme before moving to WNT-Rotor last year. She won the overall title at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, and finished fourth overall at the Tour of California, seventh overall at the Tour de Bretagne and fifth overall at the Giro Toscana. It was a successful year, and she decided to return to the Bigla team in a leadership position for the 2020 season. 

So far, so good, as the German climber finished second overall at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana in February before the racing season came to a halt. Expect to see her among the top climbers in the world at mountainous stage races like the Giro Rosa.

Will the team jump up to the top tier in 2021?

The new four-year sponsorship deal could allow Equipe Paule Ka to apply for a WorldTeam licence in 2021, as long as they satisfy the UCI's other financial requirements such as a minimum salary and social insurances, along with the new stricter ethical policies. The team has the potential for growth, and joining the top-tier Women's WorldTeams would help them develop.

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