Continuing my weekly-ish transfer-and-other-news from the women's peloton..... Do you want the good news or the bad news first? If I start with the bad, we'll know it can only get better - and I promise, it DOES get better...
The women's transfer news has generally, in the last couple of years, been full of really great teams disappearing - and sadly this year is no exception, as this week we've heard that American-Italian team Colavita-Forno d'Asolo is folding.
The team came about for 2011 as a merger between teams with long histories in the sport - American team Colavita and Italian team Chirio-Forno d'Asolo. The team was ambitious, signing up World Road Champion Giorgia Bronzini, and running simultaneous programmes in the European and USA circuits, and they had probably the biggest roster of any women's teams (I especially liked the fact they got around the UCI rules on maximum numbers in a team by listing Bronzini as a "track specialist").
They were successful, too - 41 victories and more than 100 podium performances in 2011 - and in the USA their riders Janel Holcomb won the National Racing Calendar series (winning the Joe Martin Stage Race & the Sunny King Crit in the process), Leah Kirchmann came in second place (having won a stage and the overall at the Air Force Cycling Classic) and Theresa Cliff-Ryan came in third (winning three races at the USA Crits Speed Week and 2 stages at the Redlands Bicycle Classic) - and Colavita unsurprisingly won the team competition.
These weren't the only great results the USA side of the team had: Catherine Cheatley won another of the Redlands stages and a stage and 2nd overall at the Tour of New Zealand; Rushlee Buchanan won the other Speed Week Crit; Heather Logan-Sprenger won stages at the Tour of the Gila and the San Dimas Stage Race (where she came 3rd overall); and Andrea Dvorak got top 5s in the GC of big American stage races and came 2nd in the USA National Road Race Championships.
From their European side, their star rider, Bronzini, had a season similar to last year's - podium places in the huge sprints - at the Giro Donne, Profile Ladies Tour, Giro Toscana, EnergieWacht Tour etc, and 3rd at the World cup Ronde van Drenthe - and with some key wins at the GP Liberazione and in the USA's Liberty Classic... and, of course, winning the World Road Race Championships for a second year in a row.
So it's been a successful team, which makes it doubly sad that it can't continue. According to this Cyclingnews article, the team is folding because of "a lack of sufficient support from companies within the cycling industry" - which sounds like bike and equipment companies pulling out, rather than issues with the "name" sponsors.
It's not all bad news, though. That same CN article says that
A handful of the team’s riders and staff, who had already signed contracts for next season, are expected to be taken in by Circuit Global Sports Management’s, owners and operators of the UCI Continental Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth, new domestic women’s program in 2012.
The team is expected to hire 12 riders and focus its budget on NRC criteriums and stage races along with Liberty Classic and US and Canadian national championships.
Apparently Colavita will continue to sponsor this new team, so at least one sponsor is staying around (phew!) - but it's not at all clear what will happen to the Italian side - if Forno d'Asolo will set up a new team, or if we lose an Italian team from the roster. Potentially this could end up as good news, with two teams instead of one - but in the absence of good news, here's hoping all the best for the riders and staff of Colavita-Forno d'Asolo - they've proved they deserve nothing but good fortune.
Diadora-Pasta Zara sign Callovi, d'Ettorre & Borgato
Another team we're worried about is Diadora-Pasta Zara, as although I've heard some vague "they should be alright" murmurings, it's still not clear whether the parent company of Diadora, Geox, pulling out of men's cycling will affect the women's team.
I've been choosing to be hopeful about this - because there has been a clear separation between the men's and women's teams in name and structure - and the issues that seem to have lead to the disagreement between the sponsors and the men's team don't apply to the women's.
The other reason I'm hopeful are their latest signings. Just before the Geox news came out, the team had announced that they were moving back to their Italian roots, signing Giorgia Bronzini - and this week they've announced 3 more names. Bronzini is a rider who likes to pick her own support, so it wasn't too much of a surprise when Alessandra d'Ettorre and Giada Borgato followed her from Colavita-Forno d'Asolo. D'Ettorre is a formidable lead-out rider with a lot of experience, and Borgato is just 20, and this will be the 3rd team where she's ridden in support of Bronzini, while developing as a rider in her own right.
The third rider they've signed is possibly the most exciting - 2009 Junior Road World Champion, Rossella Callovi. Callovi rode for MCipollini-Giambenini this year, but had to cut her season short due to health problems - but if she can sort those out, it will be great to see how she develops. Her best 2011 result was 2nd place at the World Cup GP Valladolid, and she came 6th in the hilly Giro del Trentino stage race.
It may be overly optimistic, but these signings make me hope the team's future will be secure. They have a long history as a team, have former World Champion Diana Ziliute as their DS, and Bronzini on board.... if they can't survive, there's probably no hope for Italian women's cycling...
But what about Manel Lacambra and the other Diadora riders?
So the confirmed Diadora-Pasta Zara riders for 2012 (we hope) are Alona Andruk, Giada Borgato, Giorgia Bronzini, Rossella Callovi, Inga Cilvinaite, Alessandra d'Ettorre, Giulia Donato, Amber Pierce and Francesca Stefani.
This leaves 2011 co-DS Manel Lacambra and riders Mara Abbott, Claudia Häusler, Oxana Kozonchuk, Sinead Miller, Rachel Neylan, Shelley Olds, Eleonora Patuzzo, Jessica Uebelhart and Olga Zabelinskaya without teams for 2012. Cunning-minded Podium Café readers have suggested that that's a damn nice team in its own right. I am really, really hoping that we hear that either there'll be a brand-new team popping up, or a small team bolstered by that line-up ..... If you find out any information at all, stick it into the comments!
GSD-Gestion and Vaiano Solaristech confirmed for 2012 - and new signings
You know it's the women's peloton when "good news" includes teams just continuing, but with all the uncertainty, we should celebrate where we can!
and the big new signing so far is another Lithuanian, Aleksandra Sosenko, double national champ.... Confirmed as staying are Valentina Bastianelli, Alessia Martini, Eleonora Spaliviero, Urte Juodvalkyte, Katazina Sosna, Francesca Anichini and Silvia Moroni, while Irene Falorni, Simona Martini and Chiara Vanni are moving elsewhere. And they’ve still got a couple of announcements about new signings and sponsorship up their sleeves. Not a star-studded roster, but they are a Bweeg-like team who work hard to stay in the game just for love of the sport.
GSD-Gestion are also staying - and they're taking on some interesting riders. Luxembourg Champion Christine Majerus, Irish champion Siobhan Horgan, Mélanie Bravard, Charlotte Bravard, Eugénie Mermillod, and Lina-Kristin Schink will be joined by the two Swiss riders from Nederland Bloeit, Patricia Schwager and Emilie Aubry, Brit Catherine Williamson (Team Bizhub), Luxembourgeoise Anne-Marie Schmitt (Lointek) and two young French riders Lucie Pader and Oriane Chaumet. There's more about the renewals - including the fact Specialized have renewed support - from Cyclingnews.
Bridie O'Donnell gives a GREAT interview!
Moving on from transfers, one thing you really should look at is this fantastic video interview with Bridie O'Donnell on Cycling Central, where Bridie discusses her career, the women's World Road Race Championships and her ideas on how to improve women's cycling - especially what the UCI could/should be doing. I am a huge fan of Bridie, because she's so articulate and thoughtful - and her ideas make perfect sense! It's a nice meaty interview, 14 minutes long, and you really should play it - you won't regret it! Here's to the UCI listening and taking action!
Fun from the Twittersphere
And finally.... some fun and some weirdness from the world of Twitter.
Happy transfer news from Aussie cyclist Belinda Goss:
The makers of The Sufferfest discover what we've known about women's cycling all along:
And Ina-Yoko Teutenberg has her own Stand By Me moment:
Anything you see that you think is fun, or news-worthy.... add it to the comments!