At just 22-years-old, Rossella Ratto has already accomplished a lot of envy-worthy results in the professional women's peloton. Now she's hoping her 2016 season with Cylance Pro Cycling, a new American-based team, will help her bounce back to the front of the peloton and back onto the top step of the podium.
At just 19, Ratto finished third in the 2013 World Championship Road Race won by Marianne Vos, finishing in Firenze just 15 seconds back in a two-rider group with Emma Johansson. It was an impressive follow-up to her first elite world championship road race the year before, when she finished sixth in Valkenburg, crossing the line alone nearly a minute ahead of the next chase group.
Ratto won her first professional race in 2013, taking the one-day Giro dell Emilia Internazionale Donne with a solo move. She won again in 2014 at the Women's Tour in Great Britain, where she out-sprinted fellow Italian Susanna Zorzi (Astana BePink) as Vos (Rabobank-Liv) led the field home six seconds later. She was third in Giro del Trentino that year, and then finished fourth overall at the Tour of Norway. Ratto also has multiple podium finishes in the Italian road race and time trial championships, and she finished 15th at the Fleche Wallonne World Cup in 2012.
Those are a lot of world-class results to pack into just three years of racing for a rider who would still be eligible for the U23 ranks if the women had that age-graded category, but Ratto slumped during her 2015 season with Italian UCI team Inpa Sottoli Bianchi Giusfredi after productive seasons at Hitec Products and the Mexcian Faren Kuota team. She is hoping to turn things around with her new Cylance team, which has more experienced riders like Shelley Olds, Valentina Scandolara and Alison Tetrick to help guide her.
“It's something that I was looking for,” Ratto told Cyclingnews. “I missed that experience the last two years, and I think the results are clear. When I was at Hitec there were girls with experience and they could teach me a lot. They could help me in the races, because sometimes you make mistakes. They can be small, actually, but in the end that can make the difference. So now I'm beginning to find out new things again, new tricks from those guys. Anytime I need any help they are there, and I really appreciate it.”
When fellow Italian and friend Scandolara told Ratto about the new American team directed Manel Lacambra, Ratto jumped at the chance to climb aboard.
“I have a really nice relationship with Valentina and she told me about this project, and she was very enthusiastic,” Ratto said. “Then I got in touch with Manel. I've known him for a couple of years, and I know how he works, so I accepted the offer because I think it was a very good thing for me.”
Her new team is fully behind Ratto's goal of making the Italian team for the Rio Olympics, but she said she's first got to prove herself at other international one-day events that suit her abilities like Strade Bianche, Fleche Wallonne and the Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
The most immediate goal, however, is to continue building the team atmosphere that will benefit everyone in the new program. In her first race with Cylance last month, Ratto joined Olds, Scandolara, Tetrick, Kristabel Doebel-Hickok and Doris Schweizer at the Santos Women's Tour. Olds, one of the world's best sprinters, finished the four-day race second overall.
“It's nice when you can give and you can receive, because it sets the team,” Ratto said. “So it was really nice for me to work for Shelley in Australia, and I am looking forward to being able to help somebody else in the next races. It's there that you build the team, and it's there that you build confidence in yourself. Because it's not only a leader riding, it's not only this in cycling. Cycling is much more. That's why I chose Cylance.”
Although her first-ever trip to the US took place just last September for the world championships in Richmond, Virginia, Ratto said her appreciation for new experiences meant she was not hesitant to choose an American-based team to further her career. As she talked to a reporter while waiting for a post-ride massage next to the swimming pool at the Marriott Hotel near the Cylance headquarters in Irvine, California, she said all signs so far indicate she made the right choice.
“I'm really surprised with all the excitement that the sponsors have for us. They really love women's cycling and they really believe in what they are doing for us. I really appreciate this because it's something I haven't seen before. It gives me even more power.”