Lorena Wiebes has signed new deal of nearly five years with the Women's WorldTeam Sunweb, who will support her long-term goals of competing at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships in Belgium and the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
It started as a controversial mid-season transfer, but the Dutch road race champion told Cyclingnews that, in the end, she parted ways with her former team Parkhotel Valkenburg mutually and on good terms.
"In the end, we finished it all good," Wiebes said. "We took it really professionally between the staff and the riders, especially in January when it was clear that I was riding for Parkhotel at least until June .
"When the coronavirus happened and there was no racing, things were still good with the team. We haven't looked back to what happened [the contract dispute], and we only looked forward. It was a very professional and respectful way to end it."
Parkhotel Valkenburg announced at the end of May that the two parties had mutually ended their contract terms and that Wiebes was free to sign a new contract elsewhere on June 1. Sunweb then announced signing Wiebes through 2024.
Wiebes turned professional with Parkhotel Valkenburg in 2018 and had signed a contract that lasted until 2021. However, she had an outstanding 2019 season with 15 wins, including all three stages and the overall classification at the Tour of Chongming Island, the RideLondon Classique, two stages at the Boels Ladies Tour and the Dutch road race championships. Her achievements saw her rise to become the number-one rider in the UCI World Ranking and she had multiple offers to join top-tier teams.
She attempted to extricate herself from her agreement with Parkhotel at the end of last year, and the team attempted legal proceedings against her. In the end, they reached an agreement for Wiebes to stay with Parkhotel temporarily until the June 1 transfer window in 2020.
"I think they [Parkhotel Valkenburg] understand [the move to a top-tier team], but I also understand why they wanted to keep me," Wiebes said. "It was important for them to have a good rider and to support the other girls. I understand why they did the things that they did, but in the end it was also good for them that I joined a higher-end team. It was good not to part ways fighting because we will see each other at the races all the time, so it was good to end it professionally and respectfully.
"I think Parkhotel will continue to grow as a team in the upcoming years but I think I really needed to take the next step, and now I'm ready for it.
"I think that it is good that I started with Parkhotel, and didn't go from the junior category directly to a team like Sunweb. With Parkhotel, it was more about having fun, being serious at the races, but also having freedom [to develop]. I think that now it's good for me to have a bit more structure with racing, nutrition and these kinds of things."
Wiebes said she signed a contract with Sunweb partly because the team is well-supported with headquarters at the Keep Challenging Center in Sittard in the Netherlands. She also wanted a long-term contract so that she could focus on racing at WorldTour level, target the UCI Road World Championships in Flanders next year, and be supported in her attempt race at the Olympic Games in 2024.
"We were talking about our goals in the future, and the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 was set as my goal, and so it's good to have a contract for that amount of time. We want to work towards those Games, and so that's one of the reasons I signed a longer contract," Wiebes said.
"They will support my goals for Paris, but also my short-term goals of racing at the Worlds in Belgium. I want to grow as a rider every year, and I think that will also help me progress toward the Olympics. It's a step higher than ParkHotel but for me it's a good step. Sunweb gave me a lot of trust and they really believe in me, and so that was important."
The UCI has announced a revised Women's WorldTour calendar that will take place from August 1-November 8. Wiebes said if health restrictions are eased and racing resumes, she would like to do well at Gent-Wevelgem and De Panne, and support her teammates at Amstel Gold Ladies Edition.
At just 21 years old, Wiebes has big future ahead of her, but she admitted that she didn't expect to become so strong or successful so quickly.
"That's the reason that I wanted to join a WorldTeam – because I didn't expect that I would grow so fast," Wiebes said. "I expected that in 2022, I would go to another team, when my contract [with Parkhotel] was finished. But it all went much faster than I thought. I don't feel like I'm the number-one rider in the world because I know that there are a lot of strong girls, but it is nice to be in that ranking."
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the 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 cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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