Slotting in at 20th place in the UCI Women Elite Team Ranking is the WCC Team.
It may not be headline news, but it is a more-than-satisfactory ranking for these talented young riders who are gradually forging a spot for themselves on the international cycling scene.
The WCC Team is made up of eight young women from eight different countries. They have no common language – except that of cycling - but they work together as one and, for their first year as a UCI-registered team, have enjoyed solid performances.
As the name indicates, the WCC Team is made up essentially of athletes from the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland: Teniel Campbell (Trinidad & Tobago), Eyeru Tesfoam Gebru (Ethiopia), Fernanda Yapura (Argentina), Agua Marina Espinola (Paraguay), Anastasiya Koldsava (Belarus), Desiet Tekeste (Eritrea), Alice Sharpe (Ireland) and Marlen Reusser (Switzerland). They train and race under the guidance of Sports Director Adam Szabó, of Slovakia.
Every year since it opened in 2003, the UCI WCC has offered trainee athletes ideal training conditions, expert coaching, and the chance to race throughout Europe.
By registering a UCI Women’s Team for 2019, the UCI WCC has upped its offer.
“As the WCC Team, they have had a different racing calendar than in previous years,” points out UCI WCC Head of Performance and Education Belinda Tarling. “They are racing against the best women’s teams in the world.
“By creating this team, we are increasing the opportunities for athletes from developing nations and showcasing their talent at a higher level. We also want to lead by example when it comes to running a UCI Women’s Team.”
The WCC Team comprises several National Champions, including Irish rider Alice Sharpe (road race) and Under-23 talent Anastasyia Koleasava from Belarus (road race and individual time trial), with three athletes also winning medals at continental level this year:
- Eyeru Tesfoam Gebru was part of the winning Ethiopian team at the African Championships team time trial and took silver in both the individual time trial and the road race;
- Swiss National Champion Marlen Reusser won the individual time trial at the 2019 European Games, and
- Teniel Campbell won the Under-23 PanAmerican Championships in both the time trial and the road race (which also earned her bronze in the Elite category). At the PanAmerican Games last month, Teniel won silver medals in the time trial - where only former Junior UCI World Champion Chloé Dygert (USA) could go faster - and in the road race, where she was beaten in the finishing sprint by Cuban Arlenis Sierra… herself a former UCI WCC trainee.
But it is as a team that the young athletes have progressed and gained experience, enjoying numerous podiums in Europe and further afield, such as the Princess Maha Chackri Sirindhorn’s Cup “Women’s Tour of Thailand” in April where the women finished second overall in the teams’ classification and Teniel second overall in the individual classification.
A solid all-rounder with a punishing finishing sprint, the rider from Trinidad & Tobago has often been the team’s leader, and at the beginning of August won both stages and the overall classification of the Tour de Belle Isle en Terre - Kreiz Breizh Elites Dames, in France.
“The team was really strong,” she says. “In the first stage we had Alice Sharpe in the break, and in the second stage I had all my team mates working in the front and making sure I didn’t do any work.
“Being in this team has been good for me. All my good results and my victories are because of them,” says the 21-year-old who has also gained in maturity during her year with the WCC Team.
“Last year I rode mostly as a domestique for Thi That (Nguyen – this year riding for Lotto Soudal Ladies) and when she wasn’t there, I was leader. I couldn’t handle that pressure. If I didn’t get results it killed me inside. It was really hard. Now I have more confidence and the team has confidence in me. It’s much better.”
One of her proudest moments this year was her third place overall at the PanAmerican Championships: “When I think what I went through for that,” says the tenacious rider who was dropped several times during the race but each time fought her way back alone to the front bunch from where she still found the energy to sprint to bronze.
While a win would have meant automatic qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the 21-year-old is still confident of earning a slot and becoming the first cyclist from Trinidad & Tobago to compete at the Olympic Games.
Meanwhile she and most of her team-mates will represent their respective countries at the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire (GBR) at the end of September.
After two years in Aigle, Teniel is full of praise for the UCI World Cycling Centre: “It’s a good environment and my coach saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself!”
The tall, powerful, punchy rider is hoping to sign a professional contract, and if that happens there will definitely be someone ready to take her place on the WCC Team.
Belinda Tarling concludes: “Some of the team are hoping to sign pro contracts for next year and some of our Junior riders may slide up into the WCC Team. We want to build on the success of this year. The team has done really well. It’s something special.”