Movistar Team Women wrapped up their first team training camp held in December 12-18 in Calpe as they prepare for their debut as one of eight top-tier Women's WorldTeams in 2020. The Spanish outfit, which launched only two years ago, will perform on cycling's world-class stage as the new reforms in women's professional cycling take effect next year.
In a phone interview from the team's training camp, team director Jorge Sanz told Cyclingnews that he approves of the new women's cycling reforms, which include a two-tier team system - Women's Teams and Continental Teams.
The UCI announced the eight teams that met the increased financial requirements that went along with the application to be among the top tier that included Movistar along with Canyon-SRAM, Alé BTC Ljubljana, CCC-Liv, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, Team Sunweb, Mitchelton-Scott and Trek-Segafredo.
The WorldTeam financial requirements include a minimum salary of €15,000 (employed) or €24,600 (self-employed), along with social insurances and benefits such as maternity leave.
"We met many of the qualifications to be a WorldTeam already and so nothing, too much, has changed," Sanz told Cyclingnews. "Maybe one of the unique things that changed are additional insurances, but many of the other things that we have been doing already remain the same.
"I think the proposal and the budgets have improved in a good way," he added. "However, I think we need to do this step-by-step, not steps that are too big in case we crash. I think the UCI is working in a good way. We have to do this by being smart and little-by-little. I agree with the changes and I think it's good for women's cycling."
Following the Calpe training camp, the riders travelled to Madrid where the men's and women's new kits were revealed together during the official team presentation on December 19. Movistar Telefonica is celebrating a decade of sponsorship in cycling. While the men's team has existed for more than 40 years under various title sponsors, the mobile communications brand launched its women's team just two years ago.
The Spanish communications giant announced its plan to create a women's team starting in 2018 to recognise the importance of fostering inclusion and gender equality. The team's initial intent was to help develop Spanish athletes and women's cycling in Spain, but as the programme grew, so did its ambition to be among one of the top teams in the world.
"When we launched the women's team the WorldTeam level didn't exist, or this kind of a category," Sanz said. "We had some targets to meet with our team, which was to improve the professionalism of women's cycling and to provide a professional conditions for our women's team. We also wanted to develop women's cycling in Spain.
"But when the UCI announced the introduction of the WorldTeams, we thought that we had to be part of that highest category. We worked to meet all of the criteria for this level, and it was a natural goal for us."
Part of the requirement to be a Women's WorldTeam was to be able to provide a four-year financial guarantee as the licences are valid through 2023. Each season, however, the top-level teams must re-establish their financial backing and show the UCI that they can support a WorldTeam programme.
Sanz told Cyclingnews that the team's management is committed to the growth of the women's team and always looking ahead to develop young talents for the future.
"We have our contract with Movistar Telefonica through 2021, and for the moment, we have the WorldTeam licence, but we need to organise new contracts for 2022 and 2023," Sanz told Cyclingnews.
"Our plan is that we want to work in the same way, with Spanish riders and high-quality international riders to complete the team. For the future, we are also committed to developing younger riders. We've already started following some of the younger riders and under-23 riders to make future plans. So, yes, we are always looking ahead to the future of our team."
The 2020 women's roster includes new signings Katrine Aalerud (Virtu Cycling), Jelena Eric (Ale Cipollini) and Barbara Guarischi (Virtu Cycling), while Lourdes Oyarbide, Aude Biannic, Alicia Gonzalez Blanco, Sheyla Gutierrez, Eider Merino, Paula Patino, Gloria Rodriguez and Alba Teruel all return.
"The first thing we were looking for was to have a complete selection of riders that could be at a good level in all types of races," Sanz said. "We thought it would be good to improve in some areas, such as the Classics races. We wanted to improve our level and complete some characteristics that we felt we were missing," Sanz said.
The team had signed Italian Sofia Bertizzolo on a two-year deal, however, legal constraints concerning employment laws in Spain and Italy kept her from competing with the Spanish outfit in 2020. The 22-year-old has an existing contract with the Italy's national Polizia di Stato that legally prevent her from holding two full-time contracts. She has since signed with Polish-registered team CCC-Liv.
Sanz said the team hasn't yet replaced Bertizzolo's position on the roster.
"We haven't closed the door to bringing in another rider but for the moment we will stay with 11 riders," he said. "If we have an opportunity to bring in another rider we will do it."
The Movistar Team Women will make their season debut the women's Vuelta CV Féminas in Spain on February 9.