I seem to be having a women’s cycling moment here, so let’s roll with it, and talk transfers. Specifically, Tibco, Hitec, and Specialized-lululemon.
Yesterday, we learned that Tibco has signed three new riders to support the team’s international ambitions. Chantal Blaak, Shelley Olds, and Claudia Häusler will all join Tibco next year.
The additions should make for a competitve and balanced team at Tibco. Olds won a World Cup this year, why not another next time around? Häusler has not had the best of seasons lately, but she is a past Giro Donne winner. This combination looks intriguing, especially when combined with Tibco’s existing riders, especially if Amanda Miller and Megan Guarnier stay another year.
The other team snapping up talent this week is the Norwegian-registered Hitec team. Emma Johansson who rode as the team’s 2011 leader announced that she intended to transfer, though she has not confirmed her new team just yet. Hitec has lost no time in building up their roster.
First came the news earlier this week that Rachel Neylan and Rossella Ratto are joining the team for next year. Neylan won a silver medal behind Marianne Vos at this year’s World Championship road race. Ratto, meanwhile, is currently eighteen years old, and she finished sixth at the elite world championship road race. She also finished second at the junior worlds race in 2010 won both the junior road race and time trial at the 2011 European championships.
But Hitec wasn’t done yet. Today comes the news that the team has signed two more young talents in Emilia Fahlin and Chloe Hosking. Fahlin is the 2011 Swedish national time trial champion. Currently, 23 years old, Fahlin also won four stages of the challenging Tour de l’Ardèche last year.
For her part, Hosking is a screaming fast sprinter who got her start racing track and criteriums in Australia. In between racing bikes, Hosking is taking courses to get a journalism degree. At Specialized-lululemon, she’s raced in the formidable shadow of Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. It’s not too surprising that she might want to strike out on her own.
Of course, the signing of both Fahlin and Hosking by Hitec raises an obvious question. Should we panic about the future of Specialized-lululemon? Probably not. The 2011 Specialized-lululemon roster was packed to the brim with talent, and it’s not too surprising that some riders might choose to go elsewhere or that the budget might force some hard choices.
The sponsorship agreements for the Specialized-lululemon team ran only until the end of 2012. That’s like, this year. It’s hard to imagine Specialized withdrawing their support. The team feels like a great fit with their marketing. Lululemon is harder to predict. Their brand is growing in leaps and bounds, and they recently introduced their own cycling clothing line. That suggests an interest in the sport, but will they see continuing their sponsorship of the pro team key to promoting their brand? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that one.
All the same, I wouldn’t panic just yet. It’s early days for women’s cycling announcements, which sometimes extend well into December. Last year, Specialized did not release the team’s roster announcement until November.
But if you see a press release that announces that Evie Stevens has signed with a new team? Then sure, go ahead. Go ahead and panic like it’s the end of the world and stuff.