The women’s peloton is more international than ever, and that’s a great sign
The years tick by and women’s cycling grows, slowly but surely. Appalled by the lack of prize money for the women at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, fans of the sport came together to raise money for the top riders at Strade Bianche. More and more races are broadcast live, and in fact the UCI demoted the Giro Rosa for not having live coverage, among other reasons.
There’s another less obvious but no less important marker of growth: the increasingly international lineups of teams in the World Tour peloton. Teams that were once basically national teams, due to lack of multi-national representation, are fielding rosters with up to 10 different nationalities. In 2021, in particular, three teams stand out as having adopted more nationalities than ever before.
Team BikeExchange was for years home mostly to Australians. Although the team also had Annemiek van Vleuten, the Dutch legend, the rest of the riders were from Australia. The most international years for the team prior to 2021 was 2012, the first year of the team, when Judith Arndt and Claudia Lichtenberg (Germany), Linda Villumsen (New Zealand), and Loes Gunnewijk (Netherlands) brought the total number of nationalities to four.
In 2021, Team BikeExchange has eight nationalities on a 13 rider roster. Trinidad and Tobago, Italy, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Spain, New Zealand, and Slovenia along with Australia are represented.
When Team Movistar began in 2018, the roster consisted of ten riders, seven Spanish, one Australian, one Polish and on French rider. Last season the team added an eleventh space and had a total of six nationalities on the roster. Now in 2021 the team has 14 riders; one Norwegian, one French, one Dutch with Van Vleuten, one American, one Colombian, one Danish, one Italian, one Serbian, and six Spanish riders.
Movistar’s biggest signing was Van Vleuten, although so far in 2021 their most valuable addition has been Danish champion Emma Cecilie Norsgaard, who was second at both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Le Samyn in the opening week of the season.
As Movistar has evolved, they’ve gone from a kind of Spanish development team into a WorldTour team to contend with, adding another element to the peloton as a whole.
A team that did actually start out as a development team and has slowly developed into a real international super team is FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope. In their inaugural year, 2006, Vienne Futuroscope had 11 riders, 80% of them French. From 2006-2018 Vienne Futuroscope became Poitou-Charentes.Futuroscope.86, and then FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, and was heavily French, with the odd Canadian or solo national rider. In 2019, as the team eyed the upper ranks of women’s racing, while still fielding 10 French riders, they also signed four other nationalities.
This year, with the addition of Marta Cavalli, the French team has six nationalities on their 13 rider roster. Their two most active riders so far have been Cavalli and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, although young Evita Muzic, who won the final stage of the 2020 Giro Rosa in impressive style, is currently wearing the UCI’s Best Young Rider jersey for the WorldTour rankings. Muzic was 20th at Strade Bianche.
Other teams have prided themselves on their diverse rosters. Boels-Dolmans, for example, has been known to have a team line up with mostly national champions. One team that has always made an effort to internationalize their roster is Canyon-SRAM.
The German team has had an international roster of riders since it’s inception in 2016, with only the base number of German riders to be able to register the team in Germany. In 2021, the team has a roster of 14 with nine different nationalities, most of them in pairs. To break it down there is; one Belarussian, two Brits (the Barnes sisters), two Australians, two from New Zealand, two Germans, two Americans, Kasia Niewiadoma from Poland, Omer Shapira from Israel, and the Swiss national champion Elise Chabbey.
This change among the teams signifies a growth in the sport, that teams are able to look outside of their home countries to field rosters of riders who will all benefit the growth of the teams. As the teams grow, so too does the competition. The races heat up as the teams grow stronger, drawing upon the strength of riders from around the world.
There is still a lot of work to be done with equality and representation. But we can take to heart the visual growth seen within the rosters of the top teams and the knowledge that with this growth, more will follow.