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Roland Cogeas Edelweiss focusing on development not wins in 2022

The Swiss squad, which has recently received backing from Israel-Premier Tech, is making its debut as a Women's WorldTeam in 2022.

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Ruben Contreras isn’t too worried about winning in 2022.

The boss of the Roland Cogeas Edelweiss team, which is one of five teams making their debut in the Women’s WorldTour this season, says that it is about development and the victories will come later.

While a smattering of wins across the year would make his sponsors happy, the Swiss-registered squad has a relatively young roster — with seven of its eleven riders aged 25 and under — and Contreras doesn’t want to pile pressure on too early.

“My vision is for the future, it’s not to only pay strong riders with a lot of money to have victories, and then it’s done,” he told VeloNews in a recent call.

“These riders are human and they’re not horses. For me, it is important that the riders are happy and after the result will come, but with young riders, you can’t just ask for results now you will need to wait. This is one thing for me that is important but at the same time, it is not easy because the sponsors would like to have one victory on the Tour de France or somewhere else.

“But Israel-Premier Tech in the first years didn’t win the Tour de France in the first years. All big teams need to build a good project. It is very important for us to build the project and build a future for the riders.”

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The 41-year-old Olga Zabelinskaya — who won silver in the time trial at the Rio Olympic Games and bronze in both road events in 2012 — is one of the more experienced riders on the roster, along with Tamara Dronova. The duo will lead the team while Contreras is hoping for some good performances from young Spanish rider Ines Cantera and Swiss rider Aline Seitz.

The Roland Cogeas Edelweiss team was a surprise name among the new applicants for the 2022 Women’s WorldTour, so much so that the team’s initial announcement was missed by many until the UCI published its list of teams that were applying for licenses in October.

Contreras is passionate about cycling and has sponsored several teams over the years through his brokerage company Cogeas. He founded the Cogeas-Mettler Pro Cycling Team in 2018 and it has been racing at Continental level since. Alumni of the team include US time trialist Amber Neben, Swiss sprinter Elise Chabbey, and Trinidad and Tobago neo-pro Teniel Campbell.

Last season, the squad finished 17th in the UCI world standings. It did not seem like a prime candidate for promotion to the WorldTour but through the extra backing of the Swiss food manufacturer, the team was able to find the funds needed to do it.

“Many people said to me that it was strange that you are WorldTour but I said ‘yes I am WorldTour because my passion is cycling’ because I put my money into cycling I don’t need to take money from cycling and from sponsors,” Contreras said. “The big problem in some cycling teams is that the managers are gangsters and take the money from the sponsor and don’t give good conditions for the riders.

“I begin alone but now we have Roland and many people now shut up because they see how it is possible in life if you want something you work good and you can have your dream.”

Joining forces with Israel-Premier Tech

After surprising many with the decision to go WorldTour, the team had another surprise up its sleeve with the securing of sponsorship from men’s team Israel- Premier Tech. The deal came about thanks to a touch of serendipity.

Contreras was already in talks with the Canadian company Premier Tech, after he was introduced to the CEO Jean Bélanger through a mutual friend, when Israeli rider Rotem Gafinoviz reached out to the team looking for a spot. The roster was closed at the time, but it would work out for everyone in the end.

“Rotem called me and she asked me if it was possible to join our team,” Contreras explained. “I told her that it was not a problem for me, but the budget was closed. I said ‘maybe I can find the solution for you because I am in contact with Premier Tech and I can tell you, but it’s confidential, that they will sponsor Israel.’ Rotem said I can ask the Israel team maybe are interested in sponsoring a woman.”

Initially, Israel team boss Sylvan Adams was not convinced about supporting the Swiss women’s squad, but a subsequent call from Contreras persuaded him to do so.

“I called and after one day he will be very interested. I explained my project and he liked my vision,” said Contreras.

Gafinoviz will join the team for 2022 thanks to the increase in budget and there are also plans in place to sign a Canadian rider, though it is not yet known who it will be.

Contreras believes that the partnership with the Israel-Premier Tech team is a good fit as both sides have the same aim of promoting development. While it was initially meant to help Swiss riders progress, the new deal — which is expected to be a long-term one — will see the squad now acting as a development pathway for riders from Switzerland, Canada, and Israel.

“For Israel Premier Tech it is very important to have a woman team for this reason for the next year,” Contreras said. “With Israel Premier-Tech it is very nice for me because we have the same ideology and we would like to continue to develop men and women. We will have a nice contract with Premier-Tech and Sylvan, Mr Bélanger, and me we would like to continue to develop Canada and riders, Israel riders and Swiss riders.”

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