There was little surprise that the Canyon-SRAM boss, Ronny Lauke, snapped up former world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot when the French rider appeared on the transfer market. After all, the 24-year-old is one of the most decorated riders in the current peloton and, with Lauke’s team looking for a winner, the marriage appeared too good to turn down.
Canyon-SRAM underwent something of a refurbishment at the end of 2015, with several experienced leaders moving on and new, younger, riders taking up the reigns.
The loss of Trixi Worrack for a large portion of the season due to injury hardly helped matters, with the vastly experienced German a pivotal member of the team. A lack of climbing prowess also hampered the team, though they did pull off a number of impressive wins.
Lauke is confident that if his new signing can rediscover her form from 2014 the team will have a new dynamic and tactic to play with in 2017.
“It’s a big signing. We have a functioning structure but we’re always looking for personalities and she’s the right fit,” Lauke told Cyclingnews from the World Championships, where his team are training for the team time trial.
“She’s young - that’s important for us - and for me personally it’s important that we’ve hired someone that’s worn rainbow stripes before. Normally we’ve developed riders or had riders who have been promising but need to get back to initial strength. Somewhere in between there I rate the hiring of Pauline. She’s won everything.”
Ferrand-Prevot called time on her season after a disappointing Olympic Games in Rio. Around the time she described cycling as ‘a nightmare’ and she has suffered with illness and injury for the majority of the season. Lauke believes that with a block of rest the French rider can find her feet again and regain the standing she had just over a year ago when almost anything appeared possible.
“She’s had a difficult year but if she can get back on track, and hopefully we can help her.”
With another proven all-rounder in the team, Lauke has also bolstered the squad’s climbing ability – an area of concern during this season.
“We basically had one climber, Alena Amialiusik, and she was basically on her own. Having someone who performed well at the Giro or who has won Fleche Wallonne already brings new quality into the team. That should help with our race tactics and give us more opportunity.”
Lauke is still negotiating with several riders – both on the team this year and others – as he builds his squad for 2017 but he admits that the squad needs to improve in the future.
“The results weren’t really at our expectations. At least I can say that they always fought hard and left a footprint in races but sometimes in the final there were a few mistakes. I put that on my shoulders because when Trixi got injured it was up to me to teach the riders more,” he told Cyclingnews.
Before the 2017 season Canyon SRAM have the small matter of trying to defend their world title in the team time trial. They’ve won every edition of the event since its inception, although this time around they do not start as the favourites.
“Nonetheless we’re trying to win. I don’t consider that we’re favourites but we want to be as inconvenient as possible for the favourites," said Lauke. "If we have the necessary portion of luck and everyone is on a great day then maybe we can make a surprise. We’ve had a good preparation and come to the desert early in order to get used to the heat."