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Gossip, rumour & news! Women's transfer & team updates!

It's this time of year, when we start to hear all kinds of fun information - and wonder what happened to things we saw rumoured, post-Worlds - so just to make things easier, here's the first in a random series of updates that will pull together some of the news - and be a great place for anything you've heard too!

This edition has some solid news about teams taking steps up, a bit of transfer gossip and most excitingly, the press release for Team Specialized lululemon - aka the next incarnation of HTC-Highroad!  With full team line-up - including the confirmation of Canadian legend Clara Hughes joining the team!

EDIT!  And in the comments, Monty catches up with changes to the 2012 calendar!

Here's the Specialized lululemon press release, in all its glory:

Velocio Sports announces Monday that the former HTC-Highroad women's team will continue into 2012 with new title sponsors and management group. The team, which will be made up of a large percentage of the 2011 riders and staff, will be primarily supported by Specialized Bicycle Company and lululemon athletica and will be known as Team Specialized lululemon.

Specialized has a longstanding commitment to women's cycling, having sponsored some of the best female athletes in the world over the years and dedicating vast resources into women's specific products. In 2012, the California company will take it to a whole new level in partnership with Vancouver based lululemon athletica to one of the most successful women's cycling teams in the world.

As a company focused on racing and developing bikes and equipment, the entire team at Specialized is excited to join forces with lululemon -especially with the London Olympics coming next year.

"This is such an awesome opportunity for us," said Specialized's President and Founder, Mike Sinyard. "We're really excited to put our name behind these incredible athletes with an inspiring company like lululemon that makes the best women's athletic apparel in the world. Our pro riders give us invaluable feedback to continue innovating the best bikes in the world."

"We can't wait to elevate women's cycling with Specialized," said Christine Day, CEO, lululemon athletica. "Their technical expertise, longstanding pedigree and dedication to women in cycling inspire our entire organization. Feedback from the athletes is what drives us and these amazing athletes further enhance our focus on technical product."

The team will race on the all-new 2012 Specialized Amira, on which they took many great victories in 2011 and showcased it as a podium-worthy women's race bike. The women will also ride the World Championship-winning S-Works Shiv, the S-Works Prevail and TT2 helmets, as well as Specialized Body Geometry Oura saddles and S-Works shoes.

Although the team will not continue to be run by High Road Sports, Highroad will be a sponsor of the team going forward. "Bob [Stapleton] has been an avid supporter of women's cycling for many years and we would like to carry on his hard work by continuing the team with much of the same structure in place," said Director of Velocio Sports, Kristy Scrymgeour. "He has been very supportive of the project and will provide us with valuable equipment to get us going."

Most of the team's firepower will return for 2012, including star riders like sprint star Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (GER), U.S national time trial champion Evelyn Stevens and former world time trial champion Amber Neben (USA) An exciting new addition to the roster will be Olympic medalist of both cycling and speed skating, Clara Hughes from Canada

Other returning riders are Ellen Van Dijk (NED), Emilia Fahlin (SWE), Chloe Hosking (AUS), Ally Stacher (USA), Charlotte Becker (GER) and Katie Colclough (GBr) with new additions in Trixi Worrack (GER) and Lisa Brennauer (GER).
Ronny Lauke will continue as Team Manager and Sport Director of the team and Oliver Grabowski and Beth Duryea will remain with the team as head mechanic and soigneur respectively.

That's fantastic!  Look at that line-up!  Clara Hughes is a multiple Olympic-and-Winter-Olympic medallist & champion across cycling and speed skating, and put down a major mark of intent at the Road Worlds, both in the Road Race and the ITT.  She's come out of cycling retirement for a shot at the London Olympics, and riding for this team will give her the chance to race against the cream of the European riders.  

Trixi Worrack is the kind of attacking rider who loves the suicide breaks and never gives up (check out her palmares!) and joins from AA and Lisa Brennauer is always a young rider to watch - she's a track star as well as road (most recently becoming German omnium champion) and joins from Hitec Products UCK.

But who's missing from that line-up?  Well, Judith Arndt keeps being associated with GreenEdge, Amanda Miller has apparently signed for another team, but I've not seen more than that, and I'm betting that AA Drink and Rabobank both will have been bidding for Adrie Visser, and she'll turn up on one of those.

What's also interesting is that Bob Stapleton's commitment to women's racing continues, and Highroad will still sponsor the team (yay!) and that Kirsty Scrymgeour is directing the new company.  Scrymgeour was the fantastic marketing & communications manager of HTC-Highroad - so we can practically guarantee that the new team will be easy to follow!


So what else do we know?

Well, we saw last week that Rabobank are taking over the sponsorship of Dutch super-team Nederland Bloeit, and keeping Marianne Vos as team leader - and confirmed riders for the team include World Cup winner Annemiek van Vleuten, super sprint lead-out & breakaway rider Sarah Düster, and Junior World ITT champion Thalita de Jong.

We also saw that Skil-Shimano has become 1t4i - and Wielerland reported that not only will their women's team, Skil-Koga, carry on in 2012, they're also stepping up a level to become a UCI-registered team.  They report that although Rabobank wanted Regina Bruins to join them, she'll stay as team leader.  Skil-Koga had a great 2012, it's fantastic news they want to get bigger and better!

Hitec may be losing Lisa Brennauer, but they're replacing her with another young talent to look out for.  Elisa Longo Borghini has had a fantastic season, so it's no surprise she's sought-after for 2012.  Bridie O'Donnell tweets that Hitec are the lucky team she'll be racing for next year, can't wait to see how she does!

Cervélo boss Gerard Vroomen is turning his blogging to talking about the minimum wage for women cyclists debate - you can see part 1 and part 2, but apparently he will get more controversial over the course of the week, so keep an eye on his blog...

Finally, it's not so much news, but some fun things to read:  Kathryn Bertine has a funny and revealing article about riding the Worlds for one of the smaller nations, EDIT!  that Jens already pointed out - sorry Jens! - and Sharon Laws, who always tells a good story, has a rider diary on the Garmin-Cervélo site about the Tour de l'Ardèche.

What have I missed?  Add anything you know - or what you think about all of this - in the comments below!