RaboLiv on the Giro Rosa podium. © RaboLiv

Velorio-SRAM or The End of An Era

After years of struggling to find stable sponsorship, one of the most successful teams in the history of women’s cycling says good-bye. As fans, we have the feeling that it’s not just the number and quality of victories the team has achieved over the years, but the whole philosophy and concept behind: Velocio will always be THE TEAM, where individual riders may change every season but the goal of being the best TT team remained clear. And they did it. Year after year. How difficult is that when the rest of contenders have improved massively in this discipline? Everyone on the team knows much better than us, they will surely remember the long and hard hours of training and mental motivation.

Besides, the German squad (officially German but somehow “felt” as coming from the U.S. too) has constantly taken care of the media like no other team has. Great and quick info about races, riders, calendar, interviews and all sorts of information which we fans highly appreciate in this (still) small women’s cycling circle. They have engaged great photographers in their ambition to show their potential to the cycling industry (I particularly remember BrakeThrough’s series while the team was winter training in Lanzarote in 2014).

Velocio-SRAM training in Lanzarote, Spain. Pic © BrakeThrough

And over the years we have witnessed some of the best international line-ups of riders, with victories in all the best races of the calendar.

For all this, it seems to me ridiculous that Kristy Scrymgeour’s team disappears. If women’s cycling future is bright – plenty of people, herself included, state this- how come a top team (4th in 2015 UCI ranking) does not have sponsorship anymore? Sport, as life, is full of mysteries and this will probably remain a huge one.

Nevertheless, Velocio-Sram’s D.S. Ronny Lauke is building a new squad. Details are still unknown and Canyon bikes as title sponsor.

The Beginning of A New Era: UCI Women’s WorldTour

UCI expects to increase women’s cycling strength exponentially by introducing 35 days of competition days with the following calendar:

March 3: Strade Bianche, Italy
March 12: Women’s WorldTour Ronde van Drenthe, the Netherlands
March 27: Gent-Wevelgem, Belgium
April 3: Ronde van Vlaanderen, Belgium
April 20: La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, Belgium
May 6-8: Tour of Chongming Island, China
May 19-22: Amgen Tour of California, USA
June 5: Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, USA
June 15-19: Aviva Women’s Tour, Great Britain
July 1-10: Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, Italy
July 24: La Course by Le Tour de France, France
July 30: Prudential Ride London, Great Britain
August 19: Crescent Vargarda UCI Women’s WorldTour, Sweden
August 21: Crescent Vargarda UCI Women’s WorldTour TTT, Sweden
August 27: GP de Plouay-Bretagne, France
September 11: La Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta, Spain
September 9-16: UCI Road World Championships, Qatar

We know by experience that showing races is fundamental to the growth of the sport. Thus, the UCI aims to boost media coverage and said there will be substantial live broadcast and streaming as well as highlight packages to cover the events. Organizers will also be required to provide a news clip to be distributed to international broadcasters after the race finishes. Each event must be promoted across social media as well, so in theory visibility is guaranteed in 2016.
However, in past years we have witnessed how plenty of live broadcasting announcements vanished in thin air, so let’s be cautious and wait till the 3 rd of March, when Strade Bianche inaugurates the WT. Seeing the girls live on dusty roads could be an absolute blast. Please UCI, make it happen!

2015 UCI Individual Rankings

1 Anna van der Breggen
2 Elizabeth Armitstead
3 Jolien D’hoore
4 Emma Johansson
5 Elisa Longo Borghini
6 Megan Guarnier
7 Kirsten Wild
8 Alena Amialiusik
9 Lisa Brennauer
10 Lucinda Brand

2015 UCI Team Rankings

1 Rabobank-Liv
2 Boels-Dolmans
3 Wiggle-Honda
4 Velocio-SRAM
5 Orica-AIS
6 Bigla Pro-Cycling
Hitec Products
8 Alé-Cipollini
9 Liv-Plantur
10 UnitedHealthcare

Women's cycling podium
Richmond 2015 women’s road race podium. © VeloNews

ANNA VAN DER BREGGEN

11 first-class victories and in all modalities: ITT, 1 day classics, stage races, World Championships. The absolute all- rounder. Superb all year through.

LIZZIE ARMITSTEAD

3 victories and general of the WC plus the rainbow jersey make a perfect year for the British talent.

JOLIEN D’HOORE

The new queen of the sprints. 13 victories this year with the help of an amazing team behind her. Brilliant present and even brighter future for the Belgian bullet.

RABOBANK-LIV

Many feared by the beginning of the season that Marianne Vos’ absence will make the team much more vulnerable. Far from becoming true, they remain the number 1 ranked team, they have the number 1 rider and they have raced as a very compact team when needed.
Their highlights: victory at Vårgårda TTT, Anna van der Breggen’s wins all year through, Kasia Niewiadoma’s stairway to stardom, Lucinda Brand’s confirmation as the perfect “freelance rider”and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot’s few but huge wins.

BOELS-DOLMANS

The second dutch team begins to be a real threat to Rabo’s dominance. We have seen it working wonderfully at World Cup races, leading the pack from the beginning to the end. This way, both Lizzie Armitstead, Megan Guarnier and Chantal Blaak got huge victories, plus the sensational silver medal on the TTT at Richmond. Their only downlight has been Ellen Van Dijk’s discreet campaign, with no successes of her own, partially due to her late season crash.

WIGGLE-HONDA

Many of us wondered at the beginning of the year if a team with so many stars (and so many sprinters!) would work. The british team proved that they know how to give chances to everyone in their line-up, and they have quickly become a true force in women’s cycling. They showed us at Drenthe how to build the perfect lead-out in a sprint, and the end of that first WC of the season will forever stay in my memory. Together with Plouay, it was probably the best race of the season. Imperial Jolien D’hoore, Elisa Longo Borghini’s win at Flanders, Mara Abbott’s Giro and Giorgia Bronzini’s victories were their season highlights.

AND A ESPECIAL MENTION TO:

MEGAN GUARNIER
She rounded an amazing 2015, with some extremely emotional performances at Giro, Strade Bianche, Tour of Norway and her bronze medal at Richmond.

JUNIOR RACING AT WORLDS
Worlds held in US soil showed us once again that the future of women’s cycling speaks English, with dominant juniors Chloé Dygert and Emma White. Unfortunately, no junior race was shown, not even race highlights afterwards. Next edition of the most prestigious week of the season should reconsider showing the whole pack of races, World Championships make no sense otherwise.

THÜRINGEN-RUNDFAHRT

Women's cycling Thüringen Rundfahrt.
Emma Johansson during Thüringen Rundfahrt. Pic © Velofocus

Thüringen-Rundfahrt was certainly the most exciting stage race of the year, with Emma Johansson taking the lead from Lisa Brennauer in the last mountain stage. We had no chance to see it, of course, but we are good at imagining how Orica worked to drop the German and how the Swedish went for an epic victory.

AND … SHEYLA GUTIÉRREZ!
Spanish fans won’t forget Sheyla Gutiérrez’s win at Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan Dames, 1.1. category. The last UCI victory of a Spanish female rider had been 7 years ago, so this was a success to celebrate.

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