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Teamwork makes the dream work as Trek-Segafredo women’s team sweeps UCI rankings

Deignan and Longo Borghini top the Women's WorldTour rankings off the back of a uniquely selfless yet ruthless race style in the team.

Trek-Segafredo may only be in its sophomore season, but there are no hints of second-year blues at the American-registered squad.

The team took a clean sweep of the UCI individual and team rankings for 2020, with Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini going one-two at the top of the Women’s WorldTour classification and the squad as a whole topping out the team ranking.

With a total of five Women’s WorldTour victories this year including marquee wins at La Course and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the team’s stellar season comes down to a unique interpersonal play between its riders.

“We’re a team that is so united and not one of us cares sacrificing for the leader, which is a dynamic that isn’t always easy to achieve within a team,” Longo Borghini said this week. “We genuinely devote ourselves to whoever has the best chances to win on the day.”

Though Deignan and Longo Borghini may be the leading lights of the team, the likes of Ellen van Dijk, U.S. national champion Ruth Winder, and French champ Audrey Cordon-Ragot make Trek-Segafredo more than a two-woman army, and no one of them is elevated above the rest. They’re the women’s version of Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s ruthless yet selfless “wolfpack.”

“In cycling, we can easily see that individuals without teams supporting them aren’t successful,” team manager Luca Guercilena said. “At Trek-Segafredo, we have assembled a large number of champions and built an amazing team. Our culture is that when one rider wins, the whole team wins.”

The relationship between Deignan and Longo Borghini in particular has been pivotal to the team’s standout season.

Twice this year, the Italian star has played domestique for the Brit, acting as a foil for Deignan as a select group rolled toward the final sprint of La Course in downtown Nice this summer, and later in the season, she and van Dijk put the handbrake on the chase group as their teammate romped up the road to win solo in Liège.

“I just felt the moment, and I think that comes from having confidence in being in this team and having directors who allow us to race on instinct,” Deignan said after her monument success this October. “I just had the perfect team today. This is for the team; this is a Trek-Segafredo win.”

Deignan, Longo Borghini, and Winder may get the wins, but they are only a part of Trek-Segafredo’s winning formula. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

It didn’t take long after the spring lockdown for Trek-Segafredo to start churning out the victories, with Deignan stepping to the top of the podium after a grey and gritty ride at GP Plouay in late August. With a truly international team comprising two North Americans (Winder and Tayler Wiles), an Australian, and riders hailing from all over Europe, the lack of team training resulting from long early-year quarantines didn’t throw a wrench into the squad’s “all-for-one” race style.

“As soon as we got racing, it clicked,” Deignan told VeloNews earlier this season. “Sometimes you can’t manufacture that. Luckily we’ve got a good group of girls who respect each other.”

Deignan reflected that the combination of unique interpersonal bonds and individual grit pushed the team to the top through a season that could have seen such a newly-formed team racing as individuals.

“I think it’s a reflection of all the hard work and dedication that everyone put into the season,” she said. “It wasn’t by any means an easy season. I have to say I have huge admiration and respect for my American teammates who came over and raced their hearts out in a season when it was difficult to know when they would be able to get home.

“I was really inspired and motivated by everybody’s commitment, enthusiasm, and motivation to race. There was this momentum in the team with people like Audrey [Cordon-Ragot] winning the French national champion title [mid-August], and once the ball was rolling, it just kept going.”

The 2021 season could see a very different landscape in women’s racing after a series of high-profile transfers and team shakeups. Annemiek van Vleuten, an unstoppable force at the start of the season, joins star riders Leah Thomas and Emma Norsgaard in bolstering Team Movistar, while the newly renamed SD Worx, home to Anna van der Breggen and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, is further reinforced by the signings of Ashleigh Moolman Pasio and Demi Vollering.

With Deignan and Longo Boghini both renewing through 2022 and the arrival of prolific sprinter Chloe Hosking from Rally Cycling, Trek-Segafredo won’t be lacking firepower in the fight with Movistar and SD Worx next year – especially now the momentum has gathered pace.

“I feel this season, our second as a women’s team, we really succeeded in consolidating our interpersonal relations, and the friendship bonds that were created were one of the crucial points,” Guercilena said. “Building a team takes time, but I feel the riders are enjoying racing, having fun together, and that is a direct result of this stronger team spirit and blossoming friendships within the team.”