At the 2017 launch of Team WNT Pro Cycling it was stated that this season, the first as a UCI registered team would be a development year with the target of a ‘few podiums’. The group of riders representing Team WNT Pro Cycling at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana UCI 2.2 race either weren’t paying attention, or are very fast developers as they came away from the four day stage race with one stage win, two third place podiums and the team award on the final stage.
So, one race in as a UCI team and Team WNT Pro Cycling has exceeded expectations with Irish National Road Race Champion Lydia Boylan taking the Team’s first UCI win, backed up by Olympic and British National Champion Katie Archibald taking two third places. While the team may have been nervous as they lined up for stage one, a Team Time Trial, they didn’t show it and, in their first race as a UCI team, on their new to them Specialized Shiv time trial bikes, they recorded a credible ninth place. A result that would have been satisfying on its own, but more, much more, was to come.
Stage two was an opportunity for the group to gel and get used to riding together in a large peloton ahead of stage three, an 87 km circuit around Alicante that contained two 3rd category climbs. The climbs took their toll on the peloton and Team WNT Pro Cycling found itself with Katie, Archibald, Natalie Grinczer and Elise Maes in the lead group. This group was being controlled by Cervelo Bigla, who had three riders on the front using their experience to squeeze any potential attacks before they could even get a gap. This led to quite a high pace but no real gaps developed meaning a ‘cavalry charge’ was on the cards for the finish. Katie takes up the story: “With 3km to go I got myself to the front and I'm sitting next to Giorgia Bronzini, thinking I'll be able to follow the Wiggle riders. But the Wiggles and I start to go backwards, and I look up and Bronzini is round me on the outside! At 1k to go I was trapped thinking ‘how do you escape this stupidly large group of riders’. The answer, was the long way round! With 500m to go a small gap developed between the Astana pair (doing lead out), Bronzini, a rider from team Norway, and the pack, so I just pedalled as hard as I could to the finish and rolled the Norwegian.” Team WNT Pro Cycling’s first UCI podium was in the bag.
Stage three did present some challenges though and put the support team to work when Hayley Simmonds punctured just before the start of the first Queen of the Mountains climb. A quick wheel change resulted but Hayley then realised that her rear tyre was also deflating, meaning a quick bike change assisted by mechanic Roman. By this time she had been dropped from the group, but used the situation to her advantage, riding time trial style for the rest of the day.
The fourth and final stage was four laps of a 96 km pan flat circuit and provided the Team with an opportunity to build on the terrific result from stage three. This was to be Lydia’s day. With the course being flat it would be a difficult day for breakaways, with the light wind not helping in that respect. Lydia tried to push on a few times early on just to test the reaction of other teams, but it seemed a bunch kick would be inevitable. Then on lap three Katie took her chance and made a break, gaining an 18 second lead, only to be pulled back in by the bunch. Lydia explains team tactics from there in to the finish: “After Katie’s break was hauled in we reverted to our team plan for me to stick with Katie to be ready for the sprint, but on the last lap I was sat on the front and a break went away and I covered it. So, with about 8 km to go we had created a gap… Crazy!! We continued to work hard at maintaining that gap, but with around 1k to go we were being caught by the bunch, so I attacked hard and didn’t look back. Negotiating the tricky final corner rubber side down I just rode as hard as I could for the line.” Team WNT Pro Cycling’s first UCI win was in the bag, with the bonus of Katie taking third place and the Team winning the team award for the stage.
Directeur sportif Graeme Herd says: “Wow, what a start to our time as a UCI team. We have now set the bar high in what was supposed to be a development year by taking our first podiums and win at this high level of women’s cycling. The entire team pulled together magnificently to deliver this result. They overcame obstacles that were put in their way and confirm the team spirt that exists within this group of riders and support staff.”