With the Olympic games looming in the summer, most teams and riders have their eyes set on Olympic glory. For the Cervélo Bigla Pro Cycling team it’s their major focus, so much so that team management has tailored their entire season campaign and roster around Rio.
While adding new partners –including new title sponsor Cervélo–, the team roster was cut from 14 riders down to just nine.
“We reduced the roster as it is an Olympic year,” said team manager Thomas Campana. “We have a good chance of having two thirds of our roster going to the Olympics so we’ve had to adapt to such an important event.”
Campana said that without a women’s equivalent to grand tours like the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia, the Olympics games “are still very important to women’s cycling.”
“The Olympics is a big event bringing added coverage that women’s cycling doesn’t get every season. We have five to six athletes with a good possibility of being selected for the games. We’ve adapted the program and the group to the event,” said Campana.
Left out of Qatar
Yet Cervélo Bigla had an early setback when, in the beginning of December, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) announced the short list of invited teams for the annual Ladies Tour of Qatar in February. Infamous for its heat, flat stages and brutal crosswinds, the Ladies Tour of Qatar has been a season opener for many riders in past seven years, but this year only 15 teams received an invitation. Cervélo Bigla Pro Cycling, currently ranked fifth in the world, was not among them.
“For Stephanie [Pohl] and for Lisa Klein, the event would have been the last preparation before the track world championships. That’s just an example of how these decision affect the riders but more importantly, it has a major effect on sponsors,” commented Campana. “It’s a delicate situation and causes problems for our sponsors. Sponsors sign up to get coverage in certain parts of the world. In terms of Qatar, we can see that the UCI rules aren’t working. There’s a lot of loopholes within in the rules and race organisers can interrupt them they way they want.”
“If UCI and ASO doesn’t understand how decisions like this can effect title sponsorship of a team, then they don’t understand how to grow the sport,” continued Campana. “Teams need guarantees of a race program in order to approach sponsors.”
But this setback has only motivated the riders more, said Campana.
“This has motivated the girls to show what they’re made of. We’re in preparation for our training camp and everyone is excited about it,” Campana said.
Cervélo Bigla’s roster includes returning riders like South African national champion Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, American time trial specialist Carmen Small and Finnish national champion Lotta Lepistö. Other returning riders are Canadian national champion Joelle Numainville, Swiss mountain biker Nicole Hanselmann and German youngsters Clara Koppenburg and Lisa Klein.
The two new riders who were added are Stephanie Pohl and Gabrielle Pilote Fortin. Pohl is a world champion on the track and Fortin is the Canadian Under 23 road champion.
“We’ve kept a good balance in the team with a mix of experience and really good young talent,” said Campana. “On paper the team might not look as strong as last year but I believe the team will be stronger.”