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UAE Team ADQ hopes roster overhaul will see squad step up in 2023

After signing four riders from Valcar-Travel & Service, team manager Rubens Bertogliati says that development teams are key to the future of women's cycling.

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UAE Team ADQ management hope that the recent overhaul of its roster will help it put up a more consistent front in 2023.

The team has been one of the busiest in the transfer market this winter, signing seven riders to its roster while waving goodbye to six. After the late signing of Lizzie Holden last month, the team will race with 16 riders in 2023, more than any other team on the WorldTour.

Team manager Rubens Bertogliati believes that the overhaul of the team was needed to give the roster a strong enough base to handle the increasingly busy Women’s WorldTour calendar.

“To do a complete and successful season, in the opinion of off the management and also my opinion, number of, we need say 12 or 13 riders that are solid, and solid means not only that they can do results, but also that they can work and do complete the job for the team are needed,” Bertogliati told VeloNews.

“With 13 solid riders it means that we can do double activity or we can do a WorldTour activity with six plus maybe two reserves or three reserves and we can do every race with a solid team. Then, having maybe another six riders composed by example for good riders, or three good riders and three riders developing in the second activity, we can do that with no problem. But in the WorldTour we need to have the certainty to bring always the best.”

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UAE Team ADQ is a relatively new set-up in women’s cycling after the management behind the men’s UAE Team Emirates squad took over the existing Alé BTC Ljubljana squad at the beginning of last year. While there were some big changes in the backroom staff, the rider roster stayed largely unchanged with a few additions for the 2022 season.

The recent overhaul sees five of the nine riders that came over from the Alé BTC Ljubljana squad depart the team, leaving just four.

Mavi Garcia, Maaike Boogaard, Alessia Patuelli, Ursa Pintar, and Sophie Wright are all heading elsewhere. The team had hoped to keep Garcia for next season, but she chose to take on a new challenge with Liv Xstra.

Meanwhile, star sprinter Marta Bastianelli is still there, as are Laura Tomasi, Anna Travisi, and Eugenia Bujak remain. Bastianelli had been destined to retire at the end of the 2022 season, but she was soon doubting her decision and by the summer she was ready to go for another year.

“When I met Marta the first time last year, she told me directly look ‘Rubens probably 2022 will be my last season.’ But then she started to race, and she won the first race with the team,” Bertogliati said. “In the season, she did a lot of winning, and a lot of good placings in races. Then in June, she told me Rubens I want to go on for another year. I was happy because I know that she’s very professional that she wants to race.

“After the crash in the Tour [on stage 5 -ed]. She crashed the hard on that day where everybody crashed in that stage and the day after she came to me at breakfast and said they ‘Rubens today I do the sprint’ and she did a very good sprint coming second after Marianne Vos and this for me showed me she had the legs for one more year.”

The Italian influence

Of the new talent coming in, Holden comes from Le Col-Wahoo, while Mikayla Harvey and Alena Amialiusik both join from Canyon-SRAM. The majority of the team’s new signings have come from just one place with four of the team’s seven new riders arriving from the Italian Valcar-Travel & Service squad.

Valcar sport director Davide Arzeni has also joined the team for 2023. According to Bertogliati, it wasn’t a conscious decision to sign so many from the one team, but the Italian connection certainly helped.

“In the end, it was also by chance. Alé BTC was an Italian team, I had a lot of Italian staff and Italian riders, our riders speak with other Italian riders, who were together in Valcar. So I think at one point, the interest started in the riders, and also from our side, we saw that the riders were going very, very good,” Bertogliati said.

“Of course, we needed to reinforce our staff in the sports director and so Davide Arzeni was one of the first signings in the team. He accepted because he wants to move into the WorldTour, but this was independent from the riders coming into the team.”

UAE Team ADQ is not the only squad in the WorldTour that has signed riders from the Valcar-Travel & Service roster for next year and just about the whole team is stepping up into the top tier. With riders like Marta Bastianelli, Elisa Balsamo, and Vittoria Guazzini having already graduated from that team, it has a proven track record of developing talent.

Valcar is currently a rarity in women’s cycling and Bertogliati says that teams like it are key in progressing women’s cycling further.

“In general for women cycling we need the teams like this team where the riders can go from the junior category till the years where they become really elite. But elite means that they can finish and do the hardest races in their calendar, like the classics,” he said. “For a junior athlete, maybe the first year elite she needs to finish the school, she lives with the parents, and this is the reality of a lot of young girls in Europe. We need to have patience at least one two or even three years, and after three four years then we can understand if there is a good potential behind.

“This is the real challenge because if you imagine we have next year probably 15 WorldTour teams and each of them will have at least 15 riders. It is not easy to find 200 riders that have the level to compete in all the races. Last year I saw at Romandie that some teams were starting only with four riders, and this should not happen in my opinion. You need to respect the organizer, and from the other side it is good for the level of the riders if every team could start always complete.”

The UCI has introduced new rules for WorldTour teams and development squads from 2023. The update will allow the elite team to call up members of its U23 squad for guest appearances, something that could help toward the end of the year when rosters are thin on the ground.

Currently, Canyon-SRAM is the only top tier team with a development squad while Roland Cogeas Edelweiss is set to run one from next year. UAE does not yet have an official UCI development squad, but that could be on the cards in the coming seasons.

“It’s on the table for the future, because I think in general, not only for us, but for all the teams, everybody knows that the girls need a middle step between the juniors and the top elite,” Bertogliati said.

“I think now that the rules are more clear, it’s even easier. On the UCI side, they need to find the right system to enlarge the base of this pyramid, because we are all happy to see Van Vleuten, Vollering, Marianne Vos, and Marta Bastianelli all the great champions that are competing and doing great things in the top of the pyramid, but we have to think that to arrive there we need a larger basis in order to attract more riders.”