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Canyon-SRAM has been one of the top teams in women’s cycling since its inception in 2016, but the team has struggled in recent seasons to convert its talent into big wins.
The German-registered squad has finished six in the Women’s WorldTour rankings in each of the past three seasons. However, it has only scored eight wins in that time and none of them has been at the highest level.
Ronny Lauke, the team manager, believes in the quality of his riders but says that they have struggled to deliver on their full potential at the pointy end of races.
“We did not fulfill what we have what we were looking for,” Lauke told VeloNews, bluntly assessing the team’s performance in 2022. “This is the reality. We have a highly talented group, we have strong riders, and we have good experience in the group, but we recognized that, for some reason, we struggled to activate the strength of the group. Therefore, we didn’t win.
“This is not only a problem since this year, we had this problem the year before, and we had that in the Corona year in 2020. So, it’s an ongoing process.”
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While the team only climbed to the top step of the podium just once this year with Pauliena Rooijakkers at the 1.1 Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria, it was still a big presence at the front of races with 11 runner-up finishes and 12 third-place results — including a third-place overall at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
Lauke believes that there were a number of factors that prevented the team’s star performers from turning those podium finishes into race wins.
“One part is that we always miss one of our strong riders these last two years which is [Chloe] Dygert because she was injured. If you miss one strong engine, it’s always difficult to compensate,” he said. “I think we had some strong showings within the race, but when we came to the final of a race, we often had problems turning our positions that we have created within the race into something victorious.
“Either it has been a technical issue or we’re too stressed to finally get the victory that we always felt like they were close, too. Yeah. There were some minor errors in the approach toward the final, which led to second place instead of victory. That’s something that we need to solve together.
In addition to reviewing the mistakes that were made during this year’s races, Lauke has also made a few tweaks to the roster that he hopes will boost the team’s performance in 2023.
Some long-time team riders like Alena Amialiusik, Lisa Klein, and Alice Barnes have moved on to other teams for next year. Meanwhile, the team has brought in a raft of young talent, including Maike van der Duin, Alice Towers, and Agnieszka Skalniak-Sójka. Ricarda Bauernfeind and Antonia Niedermaier have also been promoted from the recently created development team.
Lauke believed that the refresh was needed to get the best out of the whole roster.
“I really wish the riders enjoy their time as a pro athlete within our group, that we have a strong team spirit, but also we encourage riders to develop a strong and confident personality for their own personal success,” Lauke said. “I appreciate every single rider that I’ve worked with, and they always have been loyal. But sometimes if one has worked for a long time with you, you can’t get the last percentage anymore. I don’t know if it’s called complacency or that people develop in different directions. I don’t know, but the feeling is that you can’t activate the last percentages anymore like they can give in first, second, or third year in the team. So this is why I felt we need some changes.”
A new tone
It’s not just in the rider roster where the team has seen some changes for the 2023 season. In October, Swedish former racer Magnus Bäckstedt was announced as the new lead sport director for the team.
He is returning to the team car after taking a break from it while he supported his daughters Elynor and Zoe in their ambitions to becoming professionals. The former Paris-Roubaix rider brings with him a wealth of experience and a different outlook on racing.
“Magnus Bäckstedt as the new lead sport director gives the riders a new tone, a new speech, a new approach, some fresh ideas,” Lauke said. “I personally did not know Magnus but Beth [Duryea – the Canyon-SRAM communications manager] and I talked about that who we potentially could approach who would be a beneficial addition to the group, and somebody who’s new, somebody is fresh, but also motivated, and has some sort of background in the sport.
“Somehow the name popped up and we made contact with him. There was immediately an interest from his side and then we had him on two or three races as a guest being around the team to get to know one another.”
By bringing Bäckstedt on, Canyon-SRAM has also bolstered the size of its sport director team, which will allow more defined roles within the squad. Until now, Lauke and Duryea have been helping with sport director duties.
With the sport growing each passing season, it is becoming harder to maintain dual roles within a team.
“I think everything is has become so much more professional and riders have become more demanding. We need to make sure to fulfill all of those needs and have people who are really concentrated and focused on this particular role and this particular job,” Lauke said. “Therefore, we need to have a sports director, who does sports directing only and does their job throughout the season for the riders to evaluate and process and also does proper planning.
“Previously, we had Lars Teutenberg that was sport director, and then Beth and myself, we did a few races as well. The way the sport has developed, I think it’s not sufficient anymore where the team manager is sitting constantly in the race car or the communication and marketing manager is taking over sometimes. I think it just doesn’t fit anymore how professional sport has become. Therefore, we had to separate those.”