Lisa Brennauer’s move to WNT-Rotor seemed like a natural fit, as the team is now registered in Germany with the title sponsor’s headquarters just a stone’s throw away from Breannauer's hometown in Kempten. The former time trial world champion not only brings leadership qualities to the programme but valuable points that have helped to bump the team up into the top 15 in the world ranking, which has secured their place on the Women’s WorldTour in 2019.
“I’ve known them for a couple of years, and even when the team was smaller, I had been hanging out with the riders when they were here for training camps, joining them on their rides,” Brennauer told Cyclingnews.
Brennauer turned pro with Equipe Nürnberger in 2009, but she has spent the majority of the last 10 years racing for Canyon-SRAM and its previous title sponsors Specialized-lululemon and Velocio-SRAM. She then made the surprise decision to leave what was a comfortable environment at Canyon-SRAM to join Wiggle High5 for one season in 2018. It was a move that she said sparked new motivation, but it was short-lived after team owner Rochelle Gilmore announced in July that she would be shutting down the programme.
Any rider would be anxious about being forced to search for a new contract; however, Brennauer had kept in close contact with the owners of WNT-Rotor and felt that there was something special happening with the team that showed potential for growth.
“They never pushed me to join the team, but I always had the feeling that they would be happy, and we had discussed the possibility, but I was happy with the teams that I have been in over the years,” Brennauer said.
“When it was clear that Wiggle was going to fold at the end of the season, or I knew that it was most likely not going to go on, I spoke with WNT.”
The teams that secure automatic invitations to the Women’s WorldTour events must be among the top 15 in the world ranking that is published annually in January. The combined points of the top four riders are what determines a team's ranking. Brennauer said it was essential to join a team that was among the top 15 for her to be able to race at the sport’s highest level.
WNT-Rotor were not part of the top 15 teams in 2018 but have moved up to seventh with 2,082 points, primarily thanks to points acquired after singing both Brennauer and Kirsten Wild, who both joined the team after Wiggle High5 folded.
“I knew that, for me, if joining WNT was going to be an option it would need to be among the top 15 teams because of the race calendar,” Brennauer said.
“I’ve seen how it has worked before, for teams that are not in the top 15, and it is tricky because you can plan to do certain races but then you don’t get invited, or you apply, and it takes a long time for race organisers to decide which teams they'll add based on which teams apply.
"I've always liked this team: the atmosphere, structure, and their connection to a big company. It's safe knowing that there is a big company involved and you can be sure about your place, and that everyone receives their salary. It's always good if you know that the structure is there to be one of the really big teams. All they've been missing to be one of the big teams is the riders with the points and experience.”
WNT-Rotor have signed a team of 14 riders, and the most experienced will be Brennauer, Wild and Spanish climber Ane Santesteban, who's joined the team this year from Ale Cipollini.
“I spoke with Kirsten, and at the same time I knew they were also speaking with Ana, who I also find to be a super-good rider with lots of potential and room to grow as a climber, which is her strength,” Brennauer said.
“I thought, ‘Wow, if that happens – Ana signs and Kirsten gets on board, and me – it'll be a really cool mixture of experience, along with riders who have so much potential and young riders who are willing to learn.' That's what interested me and got me fascinated about joining WNT.”
Brennauer is a two-time winner of the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour and has also won the Boels Rental Ladies Tour, Aviva Women’s Tour, and Energiewacht Tour. She secured some of her career-best results between 2014 and 2016. At the Ponferrada Worlds in 2014, she won the world title in the individual time trial and placed second in the road race.
Although she hasn’t had the same level of success in the past two seasons, Brennauer said that she's found a fresh outlook on her career after joining WNT-Rotor, and she's prepared to rise to her best during the 2019 season, as both a leader and a domestique on the team.
“I’m really excited because it is a little bit of a different role. It’s versatile, and I won’t always be the leader. Kirsten and I have been working together; she will need me in her lead-outs for the sprints. There'll be the climbers, and I'll use my power to support them on the way to the climbs in their events.
“Of course, there'll be races where I take a leadership role, but I feel comfortable with being in different roles. It gives me a good feeling to know that I can offer a lot back to the team, not only by winning but also by supporting others, and I think there'll be lots of occasions to do that.
“I want to share my knowledge and experience. I enjoy this part of the job: to make the young riders stronger, teach them something and share my experiences. I hope that they're also willing to take the advice.”
With a stronger roster this year, Brennauer believes that WNT-Rotor will have a bigger impact at races, and she hopes the team will surprise the cycling community with podium performances on the Women’s WorldTour.
“This team has potential to create the race, to make the race, and not only react to what other teams are doing,” Brennauer said. “We're in a position where we can surprise a lot of people – and we’ll aim for that. I’m also very excited, and don’t really know what to expect.”
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