Big changes in the women's peloton, both on an international level and in the US domestic scene. First of all, the Optum Pro Cycling women's team brings back only one rider from its 2015 squad, Canadian star Jasmine Glaesser, for its 2016 US racing campaign. In the recent past the Optum team included such successful riders as Carmen Small, Jade Wilcoxson, Leah Kirchmann, Joelle Numainville, Lex Albrecht, Denise Ramsden, Lauren Hall, Janel Holcomb and Brianna Walle. These ladies have all moved on, defecting to other teams or retiring.
Optum racing director Jonas Carney says that the focus in the coming season will be on development.
These will be the riders doing the developing:
Erica Allar, Elle Anderson,
Kirsti Vivian Lay,
Katherine Maine, Sara Poidevin,
Jessica Prinner, Hannah Ross and Emma White.
On the continent, the new Canyon/SRAM team is Ronny Lauke's continuation of the impressive Velocio-SRAM squad of 2015. This group is made up of established stars Tiffany Cromwell, Lisa Brennauer, Alena Amialiusik and Trixi Worrack along with future champions Elena Cecchini, Hannah Barnes and Mieke Kroger. Italian sprinter Barbara Guarischi and American Alexis Ryan round out this swift group. Karol-Ann Canuel has moved on to Boels-Dolmans, Tayler Wiles and Loren Rowney to Orica-AIS.
Cylance, an American cybersecurity firm, is sponsoring the new Cylance Pro Cycling Team. Aggressive sprinter Shelley Olds leads a squad that also includes Krista Doebel-Hickok, Alison Tetrick and Erica Zaveta of the United States; Valentina Scandolara and Rosella Ratto of Italy; Sheyla Gutierrez of Spain; Doris Schweizer of Switzerland; and Kathryn Bertine of St. Kitts & Nevis.
Rochell Gilmore's cycling creation, the Wiggle Honda team, gets even more horsepower in 2016 with the addition of one of the most consistent all-around riders in the women's peloton, Swedish superstar Emma Johansson. She joins Elisa Longo Borghini, Jolien D'hoore, Giorgia Bronzini, Amy Pieters and others on a team that's a threat to win every race.
There's some concern that Rabobank may very well end its sponsorship of the Rabo-Liv team, perhaps the most dominating group in the sport. They'll be around for 2016, though, and if the best female rider of her generation,multiple world champion Marianne Vos, is able to come back from physical issues they'll be the team to beat. Even without Vos the Rabo girls are a dominating force. World champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, Anna van der Breggen and Lucinda Brand are among the best in the world.
If there's any team that's a daily threat to Rabo-Liv's podium spots it's the Boels-Dolmans team, led by 2015 world champion Elizabeth Armitstead. With a supporting cast that would be the stars on most other teams, Americans Megan Guarnier and Evelyn Stevens, Ellen van Dijk, Christine Majerus, Chantal Blaak and others, the Boels-Dolmans girls are looking forward to another very successful season.
Other continental teams may not have the aggregate power of those already mentioned but have individual stars that can stand on the podium. Team Liv-Plantur now has triple Canadian champion Leah Kirchmann. Annemieke van Vleuten has moved to a tough Orica-AIS squad along with Tayler Wiles. Bigla has Carmen Small, Ashlieigh Moolman-Pasio and Lotta Lepisto.