Leah Thomas finds home with Movistar after Equipe Paule Ka fold

SIENA ITALY AUGUST 01 Podium Leah Thomas of The United Statesand Team Equipe Paule Ka Celebration Trophy Flowers during the Eroica 6th Strade Bianche 2020 Women Elite a 136km race from Siena to Siena Piazza del Campo StradeBianche on August 01 2020 in Siena Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Leah Thomas on the podium at 2020 Strade Bianche with Team Equipe Paule Ka (Image credit: Getty Images)

Leah Thomas has found a new contract with the Movistar Team Women for 2021 after her team Equipe Paule Ka unexpectedly folded in October. The 31-year-old American all-rounder is hoping to continue her development at the top tier of women's professional cycling.

"My interactions with the Movistar Team have been nothing but positive," Thomas said. 

"I believe that they care about their riders as more than just expendable athletes, and are honest and transparent about what they can provide. I am excited to be on a team that is developing and, like myself, striving to be better each and every day. An additional plus is they have fantastic equipment."

Thomas had renewed her contract with Equipe Paule Ka in August, which was set to take her through the 2021 season. Her contact renewal came after she placed third on the podium at Strade Bianche.

The team announced in October, however, that they would fold immediately after they had not received the agreed upon sponsorship funding from financial backer Paule Ka. 

The team were forced to request to open their bank guarantee to pay rider salaries. The owner of Paule Ka told Cyclingnews, "The owners of the team and company are in negotiations about a dissolution of the sponsorship agreement."

Thomas started racing with Twenty16 development team in 2015. She then raced with UnitedHealthcare (2018) and Bigla (2019), which took the new name Equipe Paule Ka in July.

Thomas is a strong time triallist with a seventh at the World Championships and Pan-American Championships in 2019, and she also claimed the victory at the Chrono des Nations last year. She has placed eighth at the 2019 The Women's Tour and also won the Tour of Scotland. This year she won the Queen stage of the Setmana Valenciana and took third at the Strade Bianche.

"Cycling is a special sport because there is always room for improvement. This next season I want to focus on consistency and being the best I can be at each race I enter," Thomas said. "During the 2020 season, I was most proud of my podium in Strade Bianche - not because I placed third, but because I had bad luck in the race and never stopped fighting. I want to take those lessons of resiliency and grit and continue to develop them in this coming year. I have specific race goals in mind, but want to understand the needs of the team before pushing forward. One, of course, is making the US Olympic Team.

"I’ve learned from previous teams that true teamwork is integral to the success of the team. First and foremost, I hope to be a support for Annemiek [van Vleuten] in the coming season. Additionally, I hope to continue to develop as an opportunistic racer who excels at the really hard, relentless, classic-style races. I am very much looking forward to working with everyone this coming season."

Thomas is the last signing of a 14-rider roster that also includes Annemiek van Vleuten, Katrine Aalerud, Aude Biannic, Jelena Erić, Alicia González, Barbara Guarischi, Sheyla Gutiérrez, Sara Martín, Emma Norsgaard, Lourdes Oyarbide, Paula Patiño, Gloria Rodríguez, Alba Teruel.

"Leah is the final piece we were missing to create a balanced, strong group for next season," said Sebastián Unzué, team manager. "She's a rider who not only defends herself well in all terrains, but shines amongst the best in every single one. She's a great time trialist, a solid climber who does well at mountain-top finishes, a valuable asset for the classics - her talents are crucial for our team's success in the upcoming season. Having her aboard will allow us support Annemiek even better, while also aiming at great results over the course of the season."

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