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The Dutch-registered squad has undergone some major changes ahead of next season with its two top performers, Lorena Wiebes and Liane Lippert, heading for new pastures. Meanwhile, two of its most experienced riders are also leaving with Leah Kirchmann retiring and Floortje Mackaij heading to Movistar.
With a raft of young riders coming in to replace them, it leaves Labous, who was another of the team’s star performers in 2022, one of the most experienced. At 24, she is also the second oldest on the squad, just behind the third-year professional Esmée Peperkamp.
“For sure there are some big changes,” Labous told VeloNews. “When you don’t have Lorena on the team, and also Floortje and Liane going to Movistar, it’s for sure a whole new dynamic, but I think we will have a great team and a lot of young girls who are really strong.
“We still have Charlotte Kool as a really strong sprinter and I’m pretty sure she can also win a lot of races so when she has her own chance. So, I think it’s great, and for me, I will be a bit more of a leader and have a bit more responsibility, but I’m looking forward and I also want to help the new girls.”
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After a shaky start to the year due to a bout of COVID-19 in the spring, Labous enjoyed a strong 2022. She finished fifth at Itzulia Basque Country before going on to take the overall title at the Vuelta a Burgos in May and finished just off the podium at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in the summer.
While the Tour was a pretty big moment, it was not her favorite moment of the year. That came a few weeks earlier in Italy.
“The Giro win was so special, because I won Burgos, but without winning a stage. So, I think the Giro win was something special because I didn’t win a one-day race since my first year as an elite,” she said. “So, it was quite special, especially because over there I was aiming for the GC, and I had like heatstroke two days before the win.
“I had to reset my mind and to say, ‘Okay, what do I do now? Do I just complain, or should I just keep motivated and find a moment to win a stage’ and everything went perfect that day.”
Being an example
Given her performances this year, there will be expectations on Labous to push forward and lead the team in 2023. She knows that matching the win rate of Wiebes will be nigh on impossible, but she’s
“There is maybe a bit more pressure I would say, but when you are a sprinter you can have, on paper, a few more wins,” she said. “I don’t think I will get as many wins as Lorena but I for sure want to have more wins. But, it’s harder when you’re a climber because you always have the beat the same girls are so like for example Annemiek [van Vleuten] when she’s there it’s hard to beat her when it’s a climbing race so but yeah, I will give my best for sure to bring wins to the team.
“I think we will be maybe a bit less dominant than we were maybe this year, but we have to see how it goes and how everyone’s level this is going in the season, but I think I’m not so worried.”
The loss of Lippert is something of a blow for Labous. The pair had developed a strong working relationship with Lippert supporting Labous in the mountains at the Tour de France Femmes.
“We were working together since we were pro, we both joined the team in 2017 after juniors, so we had a really good relationship and we worked really well for each other,” Labous said. “For sure, it will be quite a big loss, but on the other hand, it also so how life goes and especially in professional cycling so I have to deal with it, and the other girls will do their best to help me a lot.”
One of those riders that is likely to be by Labous’ side next season will be the 18-year-old neo-pro Eglantine Rayer. The French rider took second in the junior road race at the world championships and won the European junior road race. She also proved her time trialing talents with the French TT title and victory at the Chrono des Nations Juniors.
“She’s really a huge talent, so I’m looking forward actually to have her in the team,” Labous said. “I’m pretty sure she can be really fast with the best actually because she’s climbing on a pretty high level. I’m so looking forward to teaching her things because she’s really young and she’s really eager to learn a lot.
“I know I’m a bit her example, she told me so. It’s giving me some pressure for sure because then you have to be a good example and show the right way. It makes me want to work harder to show her a good example and but she’s really good.”