The rapid rise and demise of Équipe Paule Ka was one of the most dramatic and disastrous storylines of the 2020 women’s racing season.
Almost as soon as the French fashion house had stepped in to save Bigla-Katusha this summer, the coronavirus pandemic battered the brand’s bottom line and it failed to meet its sponsor commitments to the team, forcing the squad to close shop.
Eight weeks on, what has become of the riders that were on the books of Équipe Paule Ka?
Clara Koppenburg became the latest of Paule Ka’s class of 2020 to confirm a new contract Wednesday, signing with Rally Cycling. Koppenburg’s move means that all but two of the shuttered team’s roster have a plan for 2021, and many of them have landed deals that will mark a major step up.
Former Équipe Paule Ka rider Leah Thomas recently confirmed she had landed a role as superdomestique for Annemiek van Vleuten at Movistar. Lizzy Banks is set to take on a central role at Ceratizit-WNT. Niamh Fisher-Black’s breakout 2020 was rewarded by a slot at SD Worx, with the team hoping to develop the 20-year-old into a climbing star in the mould of another of their new signings, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio. Youngsters Nikola Nosková and Emma Cecilie Norsgaard are both set to step up to WorldTour teams.
Of course, it’s not all good news; Swiss champ Elise Chabbey and young Italian Maria Vittoria Sperotto are still uncertain of their futures. Otago Daily Times reports that budding Kiwi Mikayla Harvey has a new team for 2021, though details have not been confirmed.
Although a question mark remains over Chabbey and Sperotto, the speedy signing of the remaining members of the squad points to the health of the economy of women’s cycling, an ironic contrast to the exit of Bigla, Katusha and Paule Ka from the sport.
Team Jumbo-Visma will become a new player in the women’s peloton in 2021. Movistar is adding extra heft – and its considerable resources – to its women’s team next year, and human resources services provider SD Worx has been splashing the cash in bolstering the Boels Dolmans lineup ahead of the new season.
So perhaps there is a shade of good news among the scraps of the Équipe Paule Ka shutdown.
“We’re all aware of the difficult situation that led to this transfer, but sometimes out of a difficult situation can arise a fantastic opportunity and this is what has happened here,” Banks said of her transfer.
Banks is one of many that salvaged a dream ending from a nightmare situation. Here’s hoping Chabbey and Sperotto can do similar to give the tale a final flourish.
Where the riders from Équipe Paule Ka will be next year:
- Lizzy Banks: Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling
- Elise Chabbey: TBC
- Niamh Fisher-Black: SD Worx
- Mikayla Harvey: New team to be confirmed
- Clara Koppenburg: Rally Cycling
- Emma Cecilie Norsgaard: Team Movistar
- Nikola Nosková: SD Worx
- Marlen Reusser: Alé BTC Ljubljana
- Maria Vittoria Sperotto: TBC
- Kathrin Stirnemann: Retired at end of season
- Leah Thomas: Team Movistar
- Sophie Wright: Alé BTC Ljubljana