Team Sunweb officially launched their 2019 season in Berlin on Thursday, presenting the men's WorldTour and development teams and the UCI Women's Team together at the Umspannwerk, Alexanderplatz. There are three new faces among the 11 riders on the women's squad while Ellen van Dijk and Ruth Winder both moved to the newly-formed Trek-Segafredo team. At the presentation, Cyclingnews spoke to the three new signings, Susanne Andersen, Pfeiffer Georgi, and Janneke Ensing, as well as sports director Hans Timmermans, about the upcoming season.
Timmermans thought that the loss of Van Dijk and Winder has not weakened the team massively. "They're good riders, but I feel they are not as versatile as others," he told Cyclingnews. "And we wanted a team of riders that can all fulfil various roles. We are competing against an individual class like for instance [Annemiek] van Vleuten or [Anna] van der Breggen, and then you need to work together as a team really well to have a chance to beat them."
Ensing, 32 and from the Netherlands, joins the team from Alé Cipollini. She is a Classics-style rider who won Le Samyn des Dames in 2018. Timmermans explained that she was not signed to replace Van Dijk, even though they are similar in some aspects.
"We had already signed Janneke before we knew they would leave," he said. "She is a great rider, and we wanted to become stronger as a team, that is always our philosophy. Liane Lippert, Juliette Labous, and Floortje Mackaij are one year older now, Lucinda Brand made another step last year, so we hope to have three or four riders among the last 20-30 riders [during the races] now instead of one or two."
Andersen, 20, and Georgi, 18, were signings of a different nature; both are young riders who show promise in their future careers. Andersen joins the team from Hitec Products and is a regular podium finisher in bigger stage races, while Georgi is a neo-pro from Great Britain who won the junior editions of the Healthy Ageing Tour and Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
"We always try to bring in the biggest talents," Timmermans said. "Susanne has been at the top of our list for years already. She had signed a long-term deal with Hitec Products as a first-year junior, we continued to follow her, and now she was available. Pfeiffer was the best junior rider of the last two years, performing well in a variety of races with different courses."
Andersen will begin her 2019 season in Spain at the Setmana Valenciana before racing in the spring Classics; Omloop van het Hageland, Ronde van Drenthe, Nokere Koerse and Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne. Later in the year, her program includes the Ladies Tour of Norway, but before that, Andersen is scheduled for the Giro Rosa.
"It will be my debut at this big race, and I am looking forward to that," Andersen told Cyclingnews. "It will be a hard race, of course, with some serious climbs. It is the biggest race of the year, and I want to try to help my teammates and learn how to race at the highest level."
Timmermans believes that Andersen has a lot of talent and that there is still much room for improvement. "I think her development has stalled a bit in the last years," he said. "She has some very good results but is still lacking consistency. Over time she can become a top sprinter and also do well in punchy races, comparable to Coryn Rivera."
Andersen agreed with this sentiment, drawing a comparison with two of her new teammates; Juliette Labous and Liane Lippert.
"Juliette Labous and Liane Lippert are my age, and I have known them since our junior years, and I can see how much better they became here," Andersen said. "I can focus solely on training and racing here, and lots of people are around to help me get the best out of myself. That makes me confident that I can develop well at this team."
Georgi will start her elite racing career at the Omloop van het Hageland before starting her first Women's WorldTour race at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda in March.
"These are races where I already did the junior events, so I know the surroundings," Georgi told Cyclingnews. "The races on the senior level will be longer, faster, and harder, so it is good to have something familiar to return to."
Timmermans pointed out that Georgi will continue to focus on her education during the first half of the season, but her race-attendance will increase in the summer months.
"In her first year, she is still finishing school, so she will not do many races in the first half of the season," Timmermans said. "We have good cooperation with British Cycling to keep developing her as a rider. We have known Pfeiffer for some time, and we know how she trains and that she can still improve a lot."
Georgi was cautious when asked about long-term goals for her cycling career but eventually named the rainbow jersey as something she aspires to achieve in the future. "I want to continue my development and find my place as a rider, hopefully, get a few wins as well. Ultimately, my dream is to become world champion – but that is still several years into the future," she said.
Compared to the two young talents, Ensing immediately steps into a leadership role, and she will be depended upon for results and mentoring.
"My role will be to teach the young girls, and of course to go for success myself," Ensing said. "I will start my season in Valencia, from there, it's one race after another all through the spring. In May, there will be a short break before the second half of the season.
"I want to target the really hard races like Strade Bianche or Liège-Bastogne-Liège," Ensing continued. "And I'm looking forward to having a strong team there to support me. Last year, I was often alone when there were 25 riders left and had to do everything myself. With teammates around you, you have a better chance of winning."
Timmermans thinks that despite her age, Ensing can still improve as a rider. "Janneke may be 32 years old, but we believe she can still take another step physically," he said. "She has shown that she can win big races. She will do a big race program and, together with Lucinda and Coryn, bring balance and experience to a squad with many U23 riders."