Team: Wiggle Honda
UCI Ranking: 3rd (up from 7th in 2014)
Win Count: 35 (Up from 16 in 2014)
Top Riders: Jolien D’hoore (ranked 3rd, 13 wins), Elisa Longo Borghini (5th, 5 wins) Giorgia Bronzini (21st, 4 wins)
In listing their 2015 achievements on their website, Wiggle Honda proclaim themselves as the “Number One Team in the World”.
Strictly speaking, they’re wrong, but in a sense they’re right. If you’re looking for official UCI rankings, you’ll find the team down in third, behind Rabo Liv and Boels Dolmans. That said, they won the most races by a considerable margin -9 more than Boels and 11 more than Rabo Liv.
It’s a similar story on an individual level; Jolien D’hoore was the most prolific rider of 2015 with 13 wins, yet she sits behind Anna Van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) and Lizzie Armitstead (Boels) on the UCI rankings.
That’s not going to stop the team, created in 2013, from reveling in its most successful season to date, where last year’s win tally was more than doubled.
D’hoore’s decision to commit herself fully to the road for the first time in her career was a big driver of the success, with the 25-year-old winning two rounds of the World Cup (Ronde van Drenthe and Open de Suède Vårgårda), stages at the Women’s Tour and Boels Rental Ladies’ Tour, the overall at the BeNE Ladies’ Tour, and another Belgian national road race title.
D’hoore was the leading light but others shone brightly, too, not least Elisa Longo Borghini, who won the Tour of Flanders early on before dominating the Route de France with two stages and the overall. Giorgia Bronzini clinched the team’s fourth World Cup win at the Tour of Chongming Island and also won Acht van Westerveld and two stages of the Route de France.
Mayuko Hagiwara won her first European race with a stage at the Giro Rosa – an important win given Japanese car company Honda’s sponsorship of the team – while Mara Abbott also took a Giro win on top of her overall success at the Tour of the Gila.
What to expect in 2016
The team has retained an important core of riders from this year, so we can expect more success in 2016. D’hoore, Bronzini, and Longo Borghini, are all staying on, as are Mayuko Hagiwara and Dani King, who will be embarking on her first season as an out-and-out road racer.
It will be Bronzini’s final year as a professional and as such she’ll be looking to go out on a high. The ideal scenario would be to bring the curtain down with a third World Championships title in Qatar, but that would be done in national colours – and that’s part of a wider potential problem for the coming year.
2016 is an Olympic year and the Games in Rio will be a major priority for many riders, which may lead to difficulties in structuring an ordinary road season to best effect. D’hoore may be the biggest worry in this regard, given her intentions of renewing her focus on the track and going for an Omnium medal.
Emma Johansson brings bags of experience to what is largely a young group of riders.
The 32-year-old has completed 10 years as a pro and, in addition to winning the Ronde van Drenthe and the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, has an Olympic silver medal to her name from the 2008 road race, along with three podium placings in Worlds road races.
D’hoore, Longo Borghini, King, and Annette Edmondson, along with new signings Amy Pieters and Lucy Garner, are all under 25 and Johansson should be a valuable addition in terms of leadership and mentorship.
One to watch
Lucy Garner is an exciting young rider who is approaching an important juncture in her career. After winning the road race world title twice at junior level, the British rider moved up to the senior ranks early at the age of 18 and has spent the last three years with Liv Plantur.
She won the overall at the Tour of Chongming Island in 2013, and this year she won a stage of the Route de France. She also recorded podium finishes at the Women’s Tour and Boels Rentals Ladies Tour to underline her potential. As a 21-year-old she should be ever improving, and bigger and more consistent success may well await in 2016.
UCI Ranking: 4th (Down from 2nd in 2014)
Win Count: 32 (Up from 23 in 2014)
Top Riders: Lisa Brennauer (Ranked 7th, 9 wins)