Words by Amy Jones | Photo by SWpix.com
With women’s cycling on the cusp of a season that will bring some of the biggest advancements the sport has seen for a long time, transfers between teams have been active and varied. For teams new and old having the right roster is more important than ever as the promise of the Tour de France Femmes has encouraged sponsorship within the women’s side of the sport.
The arrival of new Women’s WorldTour teams means that there are more spots at the top and there is no shortage of talent to fill them. More Women’s WorldTeams also means more riders being paid a living wage and in turn will accelerate the ever-increasing depth of ability — although the continued lack of a development structure must be acknowledged.
One of the biggest new entries to the game is Uno-X. The forward-thinking Norwegian squad — who have stated equality and team environment as priorities — have snapped up some strong riders including Hannah Barnes, Joscelin Lowden, Elinor Barker, and a host of talented young Norweigians.
Team Tibco-SVB have long been a staple in women’s cycling, however from 2022 they will be new to the WorldTour with new title sponsors in the form of EF Education. The US-registered team have kept their roster more or less the same with the addition of British talent Lizzy Banks — who spent much of 2021 suffering from a concussion sustained at Strade Bianche — and Omer Shapira who has been an invaluable domestique on Canyon//SRAM for the past three seasons.
Elsewhere, amongst the existing WorldTeams, the firepower has been shared around as a few Continental teams step up to WorldTour and some big-name riders change teams.
After picking up the women’s peloton’s most prolific winner in Annemiek van Vleuten last year, Movistar have now secured an up-and-coming rider with a similar profile in the form of 21-year-old Sarah Gigante. The young Australian national time trial champion showed promise both on the road and in the lockdown-enforced e-racing last year. This year, she suffered a season-defining crash at La Fleche Wallonne before placing 11th in the time trial in Tokyo and will no doubt come back swinging in 2022.
Talented Cuban sprinter, Arlenis Sierra, will also join Gigante at Movistar after changing teams for the first time in her career from A.R Monex, previously Astana. The 28-year-old will compliment the talent of Emma Norsgaard who has had a barnstorming first season in the WorldTour with the squad.
On the subject of fast-finishers, recently-crowned world champion Elisa Balsamo will step up to WorldTour for the first time with Trek-Segafredo after spending the previous five seasons on Italian Continental squad, Valcar Travel and Service. The 23-year-old signed a three year deal with Trek and is in good company when it comes to sprints with the likes of Chloe Hosking and Amalie Dideriksen as teammates. Balsamo has already taken her first victory in the rainbow stripes at The Women’s Tour and she will undoubtedly be repeating that feat with the new sponsors sooner rather than later.
Trek-Segafredo have also taken on all-rounder American Leah Thomas who spent this season riding for Movistar after a strong 2020 with the now-defunct Equipe Paule Ka that included a third place at Strade Bianche. The 32-year-old spent much of this season riding in support of van Vleuten but also took the win at the 7-day Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche in September.
Team BikeExchange lost a huge talent in the form of Grace Brown, who — after a succession of impressive results including her first Women’s WorldTour win at Brugge de Panne in March — will move to FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope. The French squad’s gain is very much the Australian outfit’s loss but they have plugged the gap somewhat with the signing of one of 2021’s biggest revelations, Kristen Faulkner, and a number of talented Aussie track riders who are moving back onto the road after Tokyo.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, SD Worx have scored some of the most promising signings to plug the Anna van der Breggen and Chantal van den Broek Blaak-shaped-holes in the squad. Both riders are nigh-on irreplaceable but the talent that Lotte Kopecky and Marlen Reusser bring is as good an alternative as they are likely to find. Not to mention the continued rise of 20-year-old multidisciplinary Hungarian, Kata Blanka Vas.
Kopecky’s former team, Liv Racing, lost three of their biggest talents with Pauliena Rooijakkers and Soraya Paladin also leaving the team, both for Canyon//SRAM. The Duch-registered squad have just nine riders on their 2022 roster at present and have picked up some young talents in the form of Quinty Ton and Amber van der Hulst who were both active in big races this season. Double Canadian national Champion, Alison Jackson, is likely to take on more of a leadership role in 2022.
With many of the top talents at Team DSM still in contract for 2022 there has been little movement in the Dutch squad. One notable move, however, is that of Coryn Labecki (nee Rivera) who, after flourishing in her first few seasons on the team, had started to stagnate in the team despite still showing signs of her significant talent. The 29-year-old will move across to Jumbo-Visma as the team joins the Women’s WorldTour for the first time.
With the spread of talent and the arrival of new squads the landscape of women’s cycling for the 2022 season is looking more exciting than ever. Greater levels of competition and more talent being brought into the WorldTour means we are sure to see new protagonists emerge and familiar figures with rejuvenated careers going head-to-head in top-level races. Thankfully, with races increasingly being broadcast live, we will get to watch it all unfold.
For more reading from the lacourseentete.com team, why not buy our review of the 2021 season, Racing in the Time of the Super Teams, available through here.