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The women of the 2016 Rabo-Liv team kitted up and kicked off their 2016 season today with a ride and team presentation in the Dutch city of Papendal.
The orange and white kits have changed little for the coming season but there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to the 12 women of Rabo-Liv.
The perhaps biggest elephant in the room is the fact that they now have three healthy leaders or ‘kopvrouwen’ as they’re called in Dutch.
Marianne Vos and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot appear to be back from injury and ready for action in 2016.
In their absence last year however, Anna van der Breggen stepped up and emerged as the team’s big star.
In a season 18 years in the making, Van der Breggen added some of the year’s biggest victories to her palmares including wins at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Flèche Wallonne, Elsy Jacobs, the Dutch national time trial championships, Giro Rosa and La Course. She then capped off her season with three medals at the world championships in Richmond, earning bronze in the team time trial, silver in the individual time trial and silver again in the road race.
Now, with the two former world champions back at her side, will Van der Breggen remain in the spotlight or disappear in their shadows?
“Cycling is a teamsport, it’s not always seen as that but it is…We are teammates first and foremost,” said Vos in a Q&A following the team presentation. “We compete against each other only when representing our national countries but even there you ride for yourself more than you riding against anyone. We are one of the best teams around, together we work to reach a higher level and it’s really nice to have the best riders around you to support you.”
Van der Breggen agreed adding; “We have a tight group but we are all different. Everyone has their own way of doing things. You can learn from everyone in this team.”
“This is now my fifth year in Rabo-Liv. When I started I was young and my idol was Marianne and I wanted to do the same as Marianne and to learn,” added Ferrand-Prevot. “It was really nice for me to learn inside the race,” she said. “Yes, we all want to win gold in Rio. But [on Rabo-Liv] we are one team and everyone brings in something to the team I think.”
Having been sidelined all of last year, Vos said if she could skip that year she would. With that said, watching her teammates win brought her joy as well.
“To compare my return to [Van der Breggen’s] role diminishes her performance. There are not many people who have had that many victories in one year,” Vos penned in a blog post. “A victory for the team is also my victory.”
“Teammates are of enormous value. In the Dutch team and as Rabo-Liv we have a collective goal of winning. If we succeed by working together, that’s better than if you happen to win your own,” Vos continued, adding that she is happy to work for her teammates.
The reality is that while Vos may have Olympic dreams, her primary focus is to get back into race shape.
“My only goal is to be race fit and to return to the level of my previous season. Sure, I have plans but I cannot look ahead too far,” she said during the Q&A.
In the end, having such a strong team simply means having more cards to play and a higher chance of winning, said Vos.
Aside from the dominating trio, Rabo-Liv also has the Dutch National Champion, Lucinda Brand, and the U23 European Champion, Kasia Niewiadoma in their midst. Adding the experience of riders like Roxane Knetemann and Shara Gillow, Rabo-Liv sure does have a lot of cards to play.