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Lotta Henttala returns to the pro peloton after 18-month maternity leave break

Henttala (née Lepistö) has not competed since May 2021. She will return to the pro peloton with the AG Insurance-NXTG squad.

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Lotta Henttala (née Lepistö) will return to the pro peloton with the AG Insurance-NXTG squad after taking time off to have a child.

Henttala, who gave birth to her son in January, has not competed in the professional peloton since the Vuelta a Burgos in May of 2021. She had qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games but had to pull out due to her pregnancy.

The 33-year-old Finish rider is the fourth signing for the AG Insurance-NXTG senior team, with Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, Maaike Boogaard, and Mireia Benito Pellicer already named on the squad for next season.

“It’s an exciting challenge coming back from a very low level. It’s going to be a discovery to see how far I can take this,” Henttala said. “Women’s cycling is so exciting at the moment and I would love to be part of that again. I have been following it closely as a Eurosport commentator and the level is high. Things are changing so fast and I want to be part of that change too. Races like Paris-Roubaix would be a dream to ride, and hopefully, I will be ready to do that already next year, if not in 2024.”

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AG Insurance-NXTG has stated its intentions to step up to the WorldTour for next season, though it is facing a tough battle with just one place available for 2023. The senior squad is a new set-up on top of the already existing U23 and U19 teams.

As a sprinter, Henttala rode to seven Finish national road race titles and racked up several big-ticket wins, including Gent-Wevelgem, a stage of the Giro d’Italia Donne, and the Vårgårda WestSweden. She also has four national time trial titles to her name. Her most recent victory came in a sprint win on the opening stage of the 2019 Healthy Ageing Tour (now known as the Bloeizone Fryslan Tour).

Her former teams include Cervelo-Bigla, Trek-Segafredo, and the Ceratizit-WNT team.

Following the birth of her son, Henttala didn’t have a pro contract to return to, but she began riding again. She already has big ambitions, including making the Finish team for the Olympics in Paris in 2024.

“I was enjoying myself on the bike again. I never told anyone I retired officially but it’s also known that I struggled mentally for a while. That is now behind me. My perspective has changed,” she said. “Of course, I am very ambitious for this new start to succeed, and I have Paris on my mind because it’s such a great, flat course. But I also always know that for Olavi it doesn’t matter whether I come last or first.

“I am a different person because my son is always number one in my life. Still, I would love to be first, or at least help the team achieve their goals. AG Insurance-NXTG is a talented group, and I can’t wait to meet them all, and to be reunited with Ashleigh.”

The team confirmed that it still had three more riders to announce ahead of 2023 with a view to having a squad of 16 — something that could change if it is awarded a WorldTour license — with several riders also being promoted from the U23 team.