Patrick Lefevere, owner of the men's WorldTour team Quick-Step Floors, has helped start the new UCI women's team, Experza-Footlogix, in 2018. Former cyclo-cross world champion Thalita de Jong from The Netherlands will lead the team but the complete roster has yet to be announced.
News of a women's team out of Belgium in October and again on Friday in Nieuwsblad.be comes as a relief after Lensworld-Kuota announced that it had lost its title sponsor and would fold in October. Lensworld was taken over by LensOnline, which decided not to continue the arrangement. Contracts with riders had already been signed for the coming season, leaving some 12 riders scrambling to find spots on other teams for 2018.
De Jong, 24, is expected to lead the team. She has a long history with both road and cyclo-cross success. She spent five seasons with Rabobank women's team followed by a season with Lares-Waowdeals Women Cycling team. She has won stages at the Giro Rosa, Giro de Trentino, Boels Rental Ladies Tour and has placed second overall at the Tour of Norway and Tour de Bretagne Femenin.
The team has also signed sisters Jessy and Lenny Druyts and Nathalie Bex, all from Sport Vlaanderen - Guill D'or, along with Lotte Rotman. Recent hires also include Polish rider Agnieszka Skalniak from Astana, and team Bizkaia-Durango's Axelle Dubau-Prevot, younger sister of Pauline Ferrand-Prevot. There will be 13 riders from eight countries.
The team isn't launching from scratch, however. Title sponsors Experza, a temporary employment company that Lefevere co-founded in 2010, and Footlogix, a foot care product line, are becoming the new title sponsors of the existing but revamped Sport Vlaanderen team that was run by Christel Herremans. Herremans will continue as the team manager and Davy Wyant as director.
Sport Vlaanderen team announced in September that the title sponsor would pull the plug from the women's team from January 1, while the men's Professional Continental team Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise will continue.
"That's right," said Experza business manager Sylvia Anraed, who bought into the company with Lefevere four years ago, confirmed in the Nieuwsblad.be report.
"Patrick told me this was the right move for our temporary employment agency."
According to Herremans, the Flemish government placed restrictions on hiring international riders, but the new title sponsors are open to bringing in cyclists from all over the world.
"Sport Vlaanderen only wanted to be a Flemish training team. That is changing now. Thanks to the contribution of the Experza interim office, we can put a strong international women's team on the cycling map in the next three years."
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.