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Lotto Soudal Ladies sign Vander Sande and Smulders

Elise vander Sande (Keukens Redant) finishes fourth in the women’s road race at the 2020 Belgian National Championships
Elise vander Sande (Keukens Redant) finishes fourth in the women’s road race at the 2020 Belgian National Championships (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Lotto Soudal Ladies have announced a further two new signings to the women's team, with 22-year-old Belgian Elise vander Sande and 19-year-old Dutchwoman Silke Smulders coming on board for 2021.

Vander Sande finished fourth in the elite women's road race at this year's Belgian National Championships in September – a placing that made her the amateur national champion. She has spent the past five seasons riding for domestic team Keukens Redant, while completing her university studies in Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy, from which she graduated in June.

"I had five beautiful years at Keukens Redant, and the team supported me during my studies, but to be able to take my cycling career to the next level, I chose Lotto Soudal," Vander Sande said in a team press release.

On what she could bring to her new team, Vander Sande continued: "I'm good at riding uphill, and prefer longer climbs. But I don't have any experience yet with racing abroad, and that was also another reason why I decided to join Lotto Soudal. The team always rides a nice programme, and I want to discover what I am capable of.

"I am also explosive, and can stand my ground in a sprint from a small group, and I dare to position myself in the peloton," she said. "I'm looking forward to learning at Lotto Soudal, to further developing myself as a rider and to providing support to my teammates."

Smulders, meanwhile, is still studying – Sustainable Innovation at the University of Eindhoven – and rode her first season at under-23 level in 2020. That included being part of the Dutch national squad for the U23 road race at the European Championships in Plouay, France, in August, where she finished eighth and helped teammate Lonneke Uneken to the silver medal.

Smulders – a former ice skater – also finished 19th at hilly Belgian one-day race the Trophée des Grimpeuses in September, underlining her abilities in the tougher races.

"I am good at hilly courses, like in the province of Limburg in the Netherlands, or the Ardennes in Belgium," said Smulders. "I'm looking forward to discovering what I can do in the mountains.

"I'm still young and I still have exciting things ahead of me. I was very happy that I could go to the European Championships as a first-year U23 rider. Everyone was satisfied with my work for the team. I dropped off Lonneke Uneken for the sprint and could still get a nice result myself. It felt good to be able to perform well at such an important moment," she said.

"I've been racing since I was 12," Smulders added. "As a junior, I got selected for the World Championships twice, which was a boost to my confidence, followed by that beautiful European Championship as a first-year U23 rider.

"I want to see how far I can get in cycling, and the step-up to Lotto Soudal Ladies is a step to becoming better," she said.

The two latest additions to the Lotto Soudal Ladies team follow the recent signing of Poland's Anna Plichta from Trek-Segafredo and Swedish rider Hanna Nilsson from Parkhotel Valkenburg, with the four new additions joining the six riders who will continue with the team from this season: Christina Siggaard, Danique Braam, Jesse Vandenbulcke, Alana Castrique, Lone Meertens and Abby-Mae Parkinson.