Transfer news has been coming in so fast lately, and in such big stories, that it’s not fair to hide these things in comments at the bottom of a story on page 3. And after a couple of years when we’ve spent the winter months wailing about the shrinking of the peloton and the loss of what were once great teams, suddenly five of them have come along at once. And that's just the UCI ones, because I've also heard of two more new national teams. And to go with them we even have a few more new races. So when a potential superstar like Pauline Ferrand Prevot can say quite openly in an interview "I dream of riding the big road races in a big international team" ( CyclismActu interview ) then it's about time for someone to give those shrinking violets standing by the bar and staring at the bottom of their glass a great big kick in the backside.
So on to those teams. The big news should be about that Australian one, Green something, I'm not quite sure what, maybe a press release might jog my memory. I don't understand quite why everyone down under seems to be keeping it a big secret, unless they're holding out until we send Rolf Harris back. Let's leave them for now.
One team that did get confirmed this week is what we have previously been talking about as the new Walter Zini team. Zini has been managing women's teams for years, for the last two at Top Girls, before that winning the Giro Donne with Fabiana Luperini at Selle Italia, and at least a decade more if you want to go play with Google. His new team will be called BePink, the DS will be his partner Sigrid Corneo, and the star riders are likely to be Julia Martisova, one of those Russian born riders who we struggle to find anything about beyond bare results, and ex junior World Champ Eleonora Patuzzo.
Brand new team of the week number two is RusVelo, sponsored largely by the Russian Cycling Federation to provide a home for all their hopes both road and track for the 2012 Olympics. Svetlana Bubnenkova, Olga Zabelinskaya and Irina Molicheva are likely to be their leaders on the road, but the more interesting signings are behind the scenes. Team manager will be ex-German National and Equipe Nürnberger coach Jochen Dornbusch who has spent the last couple of years working in exile in Hong Kong after the Skyter debacle. No word yet if the Groucho moustache will come with him or be left behind, but one familiar name he is bringing along is fellow German and happy camper Hanka Kupfernagel to provide guidance for the planned German contingent. And to get that invite to ride the Thuringen Rundfahrt. No hints yet as to who those Germans are who she will be mentoring.
New team number three is Giusfredi - Verinlegno. At present they are a junior women's team but they are stepping up a couple of levels in 2012 to become not just a senior team, but one registered with the UCI, to support up and coming star Rossella Ratto. Rossella just won the junior women's Tuttobici Oscar, the end of year cycling awards in Italy, for the fifth successive year in her age group. She's the first rider to get such a clean sweep since a certain Giorgia Bronzini, so the omens for the future are good. Supporting her are a group of young Italians that you would have to be a real geek to have heard of, so the UCI registration is a bit unexpected. Maybe they thought that it would be necessary just to have a chance of getting any race invitations, after all we saw how the Australians and French National squads got squeezed out of this year's Giro Donne.
Moving to not just a different country but a different continent, South African team Bizhub announced that they too would be registering with the UCI in 2012 (their Twitter stream seems to get news before the team webpage), and their first four riders would be Anriette Schoeman (Lotto-Honda 2011), Cashandra Slingerland (MTN 2009-2010), Leana de Jager and Lilandi Swanepoel. South Africa already have enough UCI points to qualify two riders for the London Olympics and it looks like they are really busting a gut to get one more. Ash Moolman and Cherise Taylor took a first and second place apiece at the recent African Continental Championships and they will be among the six riders will be coming to Europe this season to ride for Lotto-Belisol (It's strange that Honda doesn't seem to be a name sponsor any more as the Honda Dream Team is having yet another great season in Australia. Totally speculative guesses from me include a) Lotto-Belisol will be part of the men's Lotto-Belisol structure, and b) Honda are planning to launch a team of their own. That might also explain why we've yet to hear where Nicole Cooke will be riding in 2012).
New team of the week number five doesn't look like a UCI team (although that may just be down to my poor understanding of German), but with the connections they've got it probably doesn't matter. Vera Hohlfeld who recently has been organising the Thueringen Rundfahrt is setting up a German based team for 2012, which at present seems to have just a code-name, Projekt Woman Cycling Team 2012, but the fact that they are making press releases through the race web-site suggests that they are well beyond the hot-air stage.
And the final new team of this unbelievable week is a bit smaller, but great oaks from dum di dum and all that, Shutt Velo Rapide are moving up from kit supplier to full team sponsor of Shutt - Squadra Donne. OK the races they shone in in 2011 might be a bit below our radar, but any new sponsorship deals are good news, and if anyone reckons those races deserve to be in VDS next year then speak now or …
So that's not bad just for one week, is it? Six brand new teams, and it looks like the only real casualty is MCipollini Giordana. Full team line-ups continue to trickle slowly in and I'm updating my transfer thread regularly if you want a reasonably up to date reference point. Big names that we've still heard absolutely nothing about so far include Nicole Cooke, Mara Abbott, Tatianas Guderzo and Antoshina, and Fabiana Luperini, so the season is nowhere near finished.
And those new races I mentioned earlier? To accompany the KNWU Top Competitie, the Netherlands will have a new race series for women in 2012, the Baby-Dump Kempenpers Klassement, a series of six one-day races:
Omloop der Kempen
Tijdrit – GP Leende
Kermisronde van Luyksgestel
Kermisronde van Bergeijk
Mijl van Mares – Maarheeze
Van Gogh Ronde van Nuenen
In which the series leader gets to dress up as a pink highlighter pen (and don't knock the pink until you've seen the fluorescent green that the leader of the men's series has to wear).
And lets finish with some proper off-season news. You've probably seen Andy and Frank Schleck showing off their strength at the recent Amstel Curacao dolphin photo opportunity (and there may have been a bike race too), but even though AA Drink riders Chantal Blaak and Lucinda Brand smoked the opposition in the women's race, the only photo seen to date is a rather disappointing one of the podium. Not a dolphin in sight. This needs to be put right at once.