British women’s team Drops enter the new year with a new sponsor and an enduring ambition to make it to the top flight after a difficult couple of years.
The as yet unnamed new sponsor is replacing those who have left, so there is no increase in an already limited budget, but their 10-rider roster represents a wider international spread than ever before.
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With some significant riders departing, Anna Christian and Jos Lowden will be the squad’s two senior Brits. Both are good against the clock and in the hills, but they will have significant overseas back-up.
Experienced Norwegian sprinter Emilie Moberg joins from the now defunct Virtu team, and alongside Dutchwoman Marjolein Van ’t Geloof will provide the team with sprinting options.
Though the roster starting the team’s fifth season may be their most competitive yet, for team co-owner Bob Varney victories on the road will not be the only measure of success.
“The big thing is if we could get a sponsorship partner that is commensurate with our ambitions,” he told CW. “If all the girls can get paid and we can start building from a stronger base, we can give riders more than one-year contracts, you can have [more] training camps.”
Getting that sponsorship would also allow Varney to achieve his ambition of taking Drops to the WorldTour.
“Why shouldn’t we be ambitious? We have got a great product, we have a good story, and Britain needs a WorldTour team. If we don’t fight for it we’re not going to have it. We may fall on our faces but it won’t be through lack of trying.”
Behind the scenes Scottish national coach Graeme Herd will become performance director. The Scot has worked for Drops before, has wide experience as a sports director and his presence will bring extra tactical nous.
After being hit by the late withdrawal of sponsor Trek this time last year the team were on the verge of going under.
“I look back on it happy that we toughed it out, proud of the girls because it was difficult for them,” said Varney.
“In February we didn’t have any bikes, we didn’t have any kit, but we kept morale up and they were mentally very strong,”
The team begin the 2020 season at the four-day Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, before heading north to the Netherlands and Belgium where they already have confirmed starts at Ronde van Drenthe, Ghent-Wevelgem and Nokere Koerse.