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The transfer market in 2021 wasn’t nearly as active as it was in 2020. With the Olympics supposed to take place in 2020 most of the biggest contracts ended that year, so when the Olympics were pushed back a year the big names all signed multi-year deals for 2021 and 2022.
Still, there were some moves that promise an exciting shift in the racing in 2022 – some young riders moving up in the ranks, and some experienced riders finding a fresh start in a new program.
Elisa Balsamo to Trek-Segafredo
A combination of luck, talent-spotting, and years of experience came together for Trek-Segafredo to hire a rider who will bring the world champion’s jersey to their team. The American outfit announced the addition of Elisa Balsamo on August 30, nearly a month before she won the Road World Championships.
Even without the rainbow jersey, the move of Elisa Balsamo to a top tier team was an inevitable one. With multiple big wins and results in 2020 and 2021, her consistency and scrappiness are two reasons a WorldTeam would want to scoop her up.
Her move to Trek-Segafredo is a smart one for multiple reasons. One is the fact that she will be learning from one of the best sprinters in the business, Ina Tuetenberg. Another is that she will have other Italians around her on the rider side and the staff side to guide her onto a more international team than the one she has been in for years. A third is that she will not have a ton of competition when it comes to her role on the team.
Sure, the team also has Chloe Hosking, but with a rapidly growing calendar, there are plenty of sprints to go around. They also aren’t entirely the same type of rider.
Balsamo will add numbers to Trek-Segafredo’s chances at the pointy end of races like Gent-Wevelgem and Brugge-De Panne; races where the team’s first finisher in 2021 was far away from the top spot.
Marlen Reusser and Lotte Kopecky to SD Worx
There’s nothing so terrifying as two incredible riders who both had breakthrough seasons in 2021 going to an already stacked team. SD Worx was arguably the best team of the last seven years and has a knack for picking up the best of the best.
Marlen Reusser managed some phenomenal results with a fraction of the support she will get from her 2022 team. With Specialized and all its resources, a rainbow skinsuit is nearly a guarantee – or as much of one as any bike race can give. Reusser’s raw power will also fill the gap that Chantal van den Broek-Blaak will leave when she retires after the Spring Classics.
Over the last two seasons, Lotte Kopecky has become one of the best riders in the women’s peloton. In 2020 she kicked off a string of incredible results that ended with a podium at Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, and Brugge-De Panne. She picked up right where she left off in 2021 and finished the season with seven victories. The Belgian double national champion will be a perfect replacement for her countrywoman Jolien D’hoore who is set to retire at the end of 2021.
Both Kopecky and Reusser will only get better by joining a team like SD Worx, a team that has produced more road world champions than any other program. Both riders can learn from the plethora of talent and experience on SD Worx and become valuable assets to the team.
Coryn Labecki to Jumbo-Visma
Coryn Labecki (neé Rivera) has been with the DSM organization since she first made the full-time jump to Europe in 2017. In her first season with the team she flourished, winning the Tour of Flanders, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, a stage of the Tour of California, and the RideLondon Classic. Although she still achieved notable results in the next four years, including the overall at the OVO Energy Women’s Tour in 2018, her progression started to dip.
In 2021 the world saw the return of a fighting Labecki, with a few WWT podium finishes and a stage victory at the Giro Donne.
Throughout her years racing in the USA Labecki was among the best of the best. That carried over into her European career, but along the way, something diverged. Joining Jumbo-Visma will give Labecki’s career a new life, one where she will benefit from the presence of a legend like Marianne Vos, while still being a go-to leader in the flatter races.
Labecki’s hunger for results and to prove herself in 2021 showed that her career is far from over. What she needs is a new home, a fresh start. And Jumbo-Visma is a great place for her to find her footing.
Grace Brown to FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
At first, this transfer seemed a little odd. Not least because Grace Brown was clearly BikeExchange’s top rider of the season. The announcement that she would move to FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope came out of the blue. But upon further examination, the French outfit is a great place for Brown to continue her career progression.
Brown has been racing with BikeExchange for three seasons and over those three years she’s shown tremendous growth. In 2020 she had a breakthrough second half of the condensed season and came into 2021 a favourite for a handful of Spring Classics and time trials. Even so, Brown is still relatively green. She’s still growing and learning what her limit is.
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, as a once development-style team for young French riders, clearly values its women. When things go wrong, they brush it off and move on. For Brown, their attitude will be a similar one to the team she joined in 2019.
Brown will have a distinct role on the team that will take some of the pressure off Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Marta Cavalli. If handled properly the three could work really well together and deliver the best season FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope has ever seen.
In addition to the general vibe of FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope being a good fit for Brown, she will also be able to further enhance her time trial prowess. Although the women’s team is not connected to the men’s Groupama-FDJ team they still benefit from the enhancements Stefan Küng has made to the Lapierre time trial bike, the bike Brown will pilot in 2022.