Leah Kirchmann’s decision to move from the US-based team Optum Pro Cycling to the Dutch team Liv-Plantur aligned perfectly with her goals of building consistently strong results in international bike racing. The Canadian all-rounder is looking to take her career to the next level on the inaugural Women’s WorldTour and at the Rio Olympics Games in 2016.
“My big goal for the 2016 season is the Olympics in Rio,” Kirchmann told Cyclingnews. “I will also be targeting some of the Spring Classics, as that type of racing really plays to my strengths.
“I’ve always had the goal of eventually moving to a European team, and the opportunity with Liv-Plantur came up at the perfect time. They are one of the top teams in the world, with strong riders and a professional team structure. I will be based over in Europe with them for most of the season.”
Kirchmann is a multiple Canadian champion in road, time trial and the criterium disciplines. She has been with the Optum Pro Cycling team since 2013 with highlights that include second overall at the Tour of California Women’s Race, second places at the Pan American Championships road race, Chrono Gatineau, White Spot-Delta Road Race, and third at La Course by Le Tour de France. She won the National Racing Calendar (NRC) overall individual title this year. Liv-Plantur announced in October that they signed Kirchmann for the 2016 season.
Next year, Kirchmann hopes to make her mark on the Women’s WorldTour, a 17-round series that includes both one-day and stage races. Although Liv-Plantur’s race program has not yet been released, Kirchmann would like to focus on some of the Spring Classics on the calendar such as Ronde van Drenthe, Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields, Tour of Flanders and La Flèche Wallonne Féminine.
“I’ve shown now that I can consistently perform at the top in North America, and I would like to achieve that same kind of consistency racing over in Europe,” Kirchmann said. “It will be an especially exciting season with the introduction of the new Women’s WorldTour. I’m really looking forward to embracing the European cycling culture, and learning as much as possible next season.”
The UCI announced the Women’s WorldTour in September, to replace the current Road World Cup, which has been in existence since 1998. The new series is touted as a necessary step in the development of women’s road racing because of it’s more formal structure and ranking system, along with its marketability to fans and sponsors, promotion across social media and obligatory video highlights packages.
“I think the Women’s WorldTour is a huge step forward in creating better professional structure for women’s cycling,” Kirchmann said. “I think the WorldTour broadcasting and social media requirements are one of the most important steps for events next year. Hopefully this step will attract more fans to the sport, and also attract sponsors to teams and events with the guaranteed exposure. There is so much potential to build on the WorldTour structure in the future in order to raise the whole level of the sport."
Kirchmann is also looking forward to returning to North America next spring to contest two of the Women's WorldTour events: round eight at the Tour of California Women’s Race and round nine at the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic.
“I’m very excited that there are a couple of WorldTour events planned for North America,” she said. “This year, both events demonstrated that they are among the best run women’s events in the world, and I believe they absolutely deserve WorldTour status.”