What the biggest transfers mean for the women’s peloton in 2021
The 2021 season is fast approaching, and although rider transfer news has been flying around since August, some of those transfers may have slipped your mind. Many of the moves in the women’s peloton should get people excited for what will be another wild season of bicycles.
As more teams reach for the WorldTour, more riders are receiving the support they need to be the best. That means we’re seeing new names make a splash in old races, and seasoned riders work harder to keep up with the changing times. Teams who aspire to be Boels-Dolmans, or heck, even Rabobank of old, are evening out the spread of talent.
Podiums are getting more colorful. Racing more animated. Here are some of the most significant transfers ahead of the 2021 season.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott to Movistar)
The most-talked-about transfer and the transfer most likely to impact the way racing is conducted in 2021 is that of Annemiek van Vleuten. The 2019 road word champion, 2018 ITT world champion, winner of pretty much all of the things, is leaving Mitchelton-Scott, where she has been riding since 2016, and her choice of new team was an interesting one.
Many expected a high-caliber rider such as Van Vleuten to go to one of the winningest teams. Trek-Segafredo, SD Worx, and Canyon-SRAM were thrown around, but she signed with Movistar, a team that has been in the women’s professional peloton since 2018 yet has zero WorldTour wins to its name. In its first year Movistar had only one Australian rider, one French rider, and one Polish rider with the other seven riders hailing from the team’s home base of Spain. In 2021 the roster is a lot more varied in nationality. Along with the Dutch powerhouse Van Vleuten they’ve added American Leah Thomas and Denmark’s Emma Norsgaard, both of whom will be exciting additions to the team in their own right.
Van Vleuten’s move is significant. She’s going from a team where, if she was on the start line, the team was riding for her, simply because the odds of her winning were high for most if not all of the races she entered. After five years on the same team, and proving what she was capable of, Van Vleuten would have had more say in her race calendar than most professional riders.
Van Vleuten clearly put a lot of thought into which team she would ride for in 2021. If she had signed for a team like Trek-Segafredo she would be competing for the top spot with Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini, especially after the 2020 season they had. Van Vleuten has publicly stated that she declined an offer from the American team because the team already has a strong roster.
In a feature with El Peloton in December of 2020 Van Vleuten said herself “let’s keep women’s cycling interesting and don’t put all the good riders in one team.” Had she gone to SD Worx the situation would have been the same – a lot of strong riders vying for that leadership role. Van Vleuten needed a team where she would come on as sole leader and be able to have some control over the way the team fell into place. So she chose a smaller team. A team where she can control more factors and have more say.
With Van Vleuten off Mitchelton-Scott it opens the door for riders like Lucy Kennedy, Grace Brown, and Amanda Spratt to shine, all three of whom have been riding in support of Van Vleuten but who are capable of great results themselves. Van Vleuten’s arrival adds Movistar to the list of top teams, a position the Spanish outfit has yet to truly experience. The question of whether or not Movistar will be able to support Van Vleuten is an entirely different conversation, but it’s hard to believe Van Vleuten would have gone to the Spanish team without being confident in their ability to back her. At least the addition of Leah Thomas lends a helping hand to the raw power of the team, but there are a lot of strong riders who were already on the Movistar roster before Van Vleuten who now have a guiding light to show them how races can be won.
It will be interesting to see the growth of Movistar over the 2021 season, particularly how much Van Vleuten will be able to grab hold of the power the team already has and force it in the right direction – in the direction of the top step.
Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg to SD Worx)
One of the stand-out riders of 2019 and 2020 was Demi Vollering, riding for Parkhotel Valkenburg. She was third at Flèche Wallonne, third at La Course by the Tour de France, seventh in both Ronde van Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem, all in 2020. In 2019 she was fifth at GP de Plouay, had podiums at the Tour of Norway, the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Vollering, only 24, came into the sport swinging.
In 2021 and 2022 she is riding for SD Worx under the guidance of legends of the sport like Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and Anna van der Breggen, who will continue to teach her their secrets of cycling even after they’ve retired at the end of 2021.
Not only is Vollering an exciting rider on the bike, she is also the kind of rider you’d want your kids to look up to, a character trait that is increasingly more important for teams to keep in mind when finding new riders.
For the last two years Vollering has been knocking on the door at a lot of the big races. She has “it”, whatever “it” is – she just needs a team that is able to support her and teach her, and she’s now got that at SD Worx.
Chloe Hosking (Rally Cycling to Trek-Segafredo)
Chloe Hosking is donning the Trek-Segafredo colors in 2021, back in the WorldTour after one year at Rally Cycling. The decision to take a step down in team ranking was looking OK for Hosking at the beginning of the 2020 season – she won the first stage of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under and was sixth at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, but after that the situation went sour.
With COVID-19 running rampant and many races cancelled, Hosking’s teammates, all of whom were American and Canadian, returned to North America. As the situation continued to develop in Europe and things started to look good for racing to start up, Hosking’s teammates were stuck in the States, unable to get over to Europe due to travel restrictions. Races went ahead, but Hosking was not on the start line.
Eventually Rally Cycling made it to Europe to jump in some lower-level racing and Hosking promptly placed third on two stages and won the final stage of the Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche. She went on to win the Grand Prix International d’Isbergues-Pas de Calais Féminin, another UCI 1.1.
For a rider who has won La Course by Le Tour de France on the streets of Paris, along with a handful of other WorldTour races, Hosking’s move to Rally Cycling could have been a fine choice had the season gone ahead as planned. As it turned out, all it did was drastically decrease the number of races she was able to ride in 2020.
Trek-Segafredo won a lot in 2020 but a missing link in their team was a strong sprinter. With Lotta Henttala on the roster in 2019 and 2020 it wasn’t necessary for the team to pick up a sprinter when Hosking was contract-hunting in 2019, but with Henttala leaving Trek-Segafredo the door opened for the American team to add the Australian legend to its roster.
Hosking is also joining a lot of familiar faces at Trek-Segafredo. She rode on the same team as her new director Ina-Yoko Teutenberg in 2010, 2011, and 2012. She will also be teammates with Trixi Worrack and Ellen van Dijk, both of whom were on Team Columbia and/or HTC-Highroad or Specialized-lululemon with her.
At only 30 years of age Hosking is still in the prime of her career. Her results in 2020 were considerable, given her team situation and the lack of race days, so seeing her back at the WorldTour level where she will have full team support in sprints, plus another sprinter to play with in Amalie Dideriksen, is going to be awesome.
Teniel Campbell (Valcar-Travel & Service to BikeExchange)
As previously mentioned Mitchelton-Scott is going into the 2021 season one Annemiek van Vleuten short. For us watching at home this is incredibly exciting, but it is also an exciting development for the team. They have a handful of riders able and willing to fill the missing gap, but it also means the team can focus widely on the entire squad’s development.
In years past Mitchelton-Scott has been almost entirely composed of Australian riders, which the exception being Annemiek van Vleuten and a handful of other riders like Jolien d’Hoore and Moniek Tenniglo. The 2021 season will see the most international roster of riders Mitchelton-Scott/Team BikeExchange has ever fielded, a roster that includes the first Women’s WorldTour rider from Trinidad and Tobago, Teniel Campbell.
Campbell, the first Black rider in the Women’s WorldTour peloton, is one of the most exciting new prospects for women’s cycling. She set out on her career in 2017 when she competed in the Pan-American Championships. In 2018 she dipped her toes in the waters of European Racing with the World Cycling Centre team, and did a few races with the Cogeas-Mettler Pro Cycling Team, a UCI outfit out of Russia. In 2019 Campbell raced for the WCC again before she was picked up by Valcar-Travel & Service for the 2020 season.
A strong sprinter, Campbell has results in a number of races. Memorably (for me, because I raced it as well) in 2019 she won all four stages of the Tour de Belle Isle en Terre – Kreiz Breizh, a 2.2 race in France. She was also second in both the road race and the ITT at the Pan American Games in 2019. In the pre-pandemic season she placed fifth at the Spar-Omloop van het Hageland, which takes place a few days after Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and was won by Lorena Wiebes.
Campbell joining Team Bike Exchange will be a big step for the young rider, but she is up for the jump. She is one to look out for in the future, not just because of the rider BikeExchange can hopefully help her to become, but also because of the personality she adds to the peloton. Think Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig interviews, but with more giggling. Talking to Campbell for two minutes, you know her smile and general outlook on life will warm even the coldest of hearts. On a bike she sits above the entire peloton, a little bit of an issue when it comes to draft, though it gives her the ability to see everything that is coming before the other riders have even heard it over the radio.
Overall, it’s the entire BikeExchange team that will be fascinating to watch in 2021. What will they do without Van Vleuten? And how will they function with so many new nationalities on the team? We will not see these questions answered until racing is underway.
Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans to Trek-Segafredo)
In 2016 Amalie Dideriksen became the world road champion when she outsprinted Kirsten Wild, Lotta Henttala (then Lepistö), and a long list of fast-twitch riders who had viewed the exceptionally flat course in Doha as their chance to become world champion. Dideriksen was on Boels-Dolmans at the time, the team that had held the rainbow jersey all year with Lizzie Deignan. This was Dideriksen’s third road world title – she also won the junior road races in 2013 and 2014.
Dideriksen has been part of the Boels-Dolmans outfit since 2015, signing for the top team when she was only 19 years old. Now, in 2021 she’s swapping the orange and black for baby blue and white as she dons the kit of Trek-Segafredo.
This transfer is both exciting and something of an unknown. For anyone who has followed Dideriksen’s career, it will be very exciting to see her racing for a new team where she might get some more opportunities to race for herself. The question is: How much will she race on the road? She’s spent the last year heavily focused on the track where she has countless Danish national titles, including in the omnium, points race, scratch race, individual pursuit, and sprint. Lately she’s been competing in the madison with Julie Leth; the pair won the European title in 2019.
At the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro Dideriksen placed fifth in the omnium after winning the time trial event, and 2020 being an Olympic year (supposedly) Dideriksen was targeting the track instead of the road.
Now, this being the second Olympic year in a row, it’s unclear how much road racing the Danish rider will do. In 2020 she raced only eight times, two of those being national championships, one of which she won: the ITT. She finished 20th at Ronde van Vlaanderen, won by her then-teammate Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, but that was her best result in the WorldTour in 2020.
Dideriksen has been open about the pressure she felt after winning the elite Worlds title in 2016. In an interview in January of 2020 Dideriksen emphasized consistency and growth as her main objectives for the 2020 season, a season that for her never really happened. “I would like to get a win this season,” Dideriksen told Cyclingnews. “It’s hard to say which yet, because I don’t know where I’ll be going. But to be up there in the finals is my main goal, along with being more consistent.”
That interview came on the heels of a rough 2019 for Dideriksen. For a lot of riders it would have been considered an alright season, nothing to write home about but not the end of the world. She still won her national road title, after all. But she didn’t win any races with Boels-Dolmans. Following wins in the the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, the Boels Ladies Tour, and a few podiums thrown around the season in 2018 it makes sense that the results of 2019 would have gotten her down. It’s worth pointing out, though, that Dideriksen was only 20 when she won her road world title. That is mighty young to be shouldering the pressures that come along with the rainbow jersey.
Will Dideriksen find her stride at Trek-Segafredo? I, for one, really hope so. The team is well known for fostering a happy and healthy environment, where anyone can win on any given day but everyone is equally happy to ride for each other, and sometimes all a rider needs is a little change of scenery to get those good vibes back in the legs.
Megan Jastrab (Rally Cycling to Team DSM)
Another exciting and also “unknown” transfer for 2021 is that of youngster Megan Jastrab. On the junior European circuit the American is known for moves like flatting in the Healthy Ageing Tour Junior Women while wearing the yellow leader’s jersey, getting a wheel change, chasing solo back to the front, and then winning the stage. Her ProCyclingStats page holds only one year’s worth of results. In 2019 Jastrab was only outside the top two once, at the Junior ITT World Championship where she placed ninth. And those are just the races that make it onto PCS.
Jastrab has been racing on the USA scene for a few years, winning races against the professionals on her junior gears. Due to the pandemic, all of the junior races were canceled in 2020 so Jastrab only raced a few times on the track in the early months of the year. In her last year as a junior she did not get to defend her world title as there was no junior road Worlds.
Now officially U23, or in women’s cycling elite, Jastrab has signed with Team DSM (formerly Sunweb) for the next two seasons. She will be thrown in the deep end, going from very few race days to a lot of race days. The question mark around Jastrab, like with Dideriksen, is not in regards to her ability to handle the situation. Jastrab is one of those incredible human beings who has a great head on her shoulders, too much talent to fit in a wheelbarrow, and the work ethic to back it. The question is more: how much will Team DSM race the youngster, and how will she fare on the team?
Team DSM is hit or miss for a lot of riders. Take Marc Hirschi, Lucinda Brand, Ellen van Dijk, Tom Dumoulin, Lennard Kamna, Michael Matthews and Marcel Kittel, for example. Some clash with the organization’s strict adherence to team rules. Everything has to be internal— coaches, nutritionists, everything. Jastrab may be the type of rider who thrives in the Team DSM bubble, like Floortje Mackaij, who has been with the team since 2013 when it was Argos-Shimano and will remain with Team DSM through 2022. For anyone who knows Jastrab and what a wonderful human she is, all we can do is hope the team nurtures her properly.
Another question is whether or not she will do much racing on the road. She has become a key member of Team USA’s team pursuit squad, and with Chloé Dygert potentially out of the Olympics for the TP, Jastrab might be spending the majority of 2021 focused on the track.
Regardless, it’s exciting to see a young rider like Jastrab entering the WorldTour, where she will hopefully become a rider to watch for many season to come.
Chloé Dygert, Team Twenty20 to Canyon-SRAM
When it was announced that Chloé Dygert would be joining Canyon-SRAM in 2021 the team itself was overjoyed to spread the news. Little did they know it would come with some degree of backlash. In any case, Dygert joining the WorldTour will be interesting to watch unfold.
The 2019 ITT world champion has been racing on a purely USA-based team for the last five years, a team that didn’t acquire UCI status for 2020. Up to this point it worked for Dygert. She was able to maintain focus on the track and on the ITT at the Olympics. She has barely raced in Europe at all – her very first road race in Europe was the Worlds road race in Yorkshire in 2019 where she placed fourth.
With every race in America post-March cancelled due to the pandemic, Dygert didn’t race an hour in 2020. Yes. You read that correctly. The 2019 ITT world champion didn’t even race one hour in 2020. In part, because she was focused on the track for the first few months of the year so, short events, but also because her uber-focused Olympic preparations hadn’t planned on a pandemic cancelling all the North American racing.
Dygert has had a few incredible performances, but all of them have been a show of power rather than tactics. She has yet to cut her teeth on the cobbles in Belgium or the climbs of France or the dirt roads of Italy. When it comes to the history of European racing, she knows nothing about it. In an interview for the CyclingTips podcast in November she said “I’m still not super familiar with all the Classics and all the races so obviously I have to look more into that but the goals are to win some.”
That being said, there’s no doubt Dygert is a beast of a rider. So when it comes to seasoned European experience she’s already ahead of the game with raw power. A major question mark is whether or not she will see many European roads in 2021. Her 59-minute-long season ended in a horrific crash that could put Dygert out for the 2021 season. At the very least it means she will be late to the racing if she does race in Europe. She will be racing in a peloton of riders who have clocked more hours racing in a week than Chloe does in a season, even when it’s not coronavirus times, and that will take some real adjustment. Her team will have to be careful easing her into the European style of racing, one that is vastly different than anything she will be used to in the USA.
Her leg injury, coupled with the way Dygert structures her season with her coach – three-time Olympic gold medalist in the ITT, Kristin Armstrong – could mean another race-light year for the American. Her primary goal is still gold in Tokyo, and everything about 2021 will be focused on that goal, which means it is unlikely she will jump into the European circus in 2021. Likely we will not get to see how she fares in Europe until 2022, but as Dygert has signed a four-year deal with Canyon-SRAM, as long as her recovery continues to go well, we will see her racing against the big guns eventually.
Marianne Vos and the new Jumbo-Visma women’s team
The fact that Marianne Vos technically transferred this year has not been forgotten. Since she is riding for an entirely new team it seems reasonable to focus more on the fact that yet another men’s WorldTour team has built a women’s team to match. Vos will be a key rider in the new Jumbo-Visma team, alongside a few of her former CCC-Liv teammates, some Parkhotel Valkenburg riders, and a couple of other stowaways.
The team in general is one to get excited about, again because of how it disperses strong riders across a wider platform. Instead of going deep into why this team is going to be important to the peloton in 2021 here, check back for a follow-up article to come.
Other notable mentions
Two Équipe Paule Ka riders that found homes after their team folded, and who definitely landed on their feet at Canyon-SRAM, are Mikayla Harvey and Elise Chabbey. These two still have a lot of development to do, and being on a team where they will be riding with Kasia Niewiadoma, Alena Amialiusik, and Hannah Barnes will be a key step in their development. A big question remains, who will take the spot of Rolf Aldag as Director Sportif?
Niamh Fisher-Black is yet another Équipe Paule Ka rider to keep an eye on in the future. She is an incredible climber and only 21 years old this year. Fisher-Black will be representing SD Worx for 2021 and 2022, a team that could develop her into a star of the sport, or chew her up and spit her out as they have done with a few other talented riders recently. Only time will tell.
Speaking of SD Worx, the Dutch team also picked up Elena Cecchini and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio through 2022. Cecchini joins the team after five years with Canyon-SRAM, and Moolman-Pasio after two years with CCC-Liv. The two are both experienced riders with a lot still to give to women’s cycling. Moolman-Pasio in particular found her calling in virtual racing during the 2020 lockdown period, and at the end of 2020 won the very first e-sports cycling world championship. These are two fantastic additions to the SD Worx roster, along with Roxane Fournier who has moved across from Team Movistar.
There are so many other riders who have made significant moves for 2021. The upcoming season of racing will see many of the top women’s teams move away from primarily fielding riders from their home nation and instead have a varied cluster of different nationalities.
Let’s get the season going, already!