After being left high and dry when her team folded last month, British rider Lizzy Banks will ride for Ceratizit-WNT in 2021.
The Sheffield-based rider was one of seven althetes contracted to Équipe Paule Ka who were left looking for a team for for 2021, though all have either found or are close to confirming a ride for next season.
Banks, who has won the longest stage of the last two editions of the Giro Rosa, has signed with the German registered Ceratizit-WNT squad for one year.
“I’m really delighted and I think it’s a great home for 2021,” she told Cycling Weekly. “As soon as they explained how they saw me fitting into their programme, and where they wanted to go with the programme I really felt like it was a great fit.”
Banks only began racing in 2015 but has improved exponentially ever since. She is courageous, and aggressive, but rides intelligently and is capable of creating chances for herself and her team mates.
It was Banks who instigated the winning move at GP Plouay in August, and though she finished second behind an in form Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo), weeks later she proved both her tactical awareness and strength taking the 170km fourth stage at the Giro Rosa.
However, despite her growing palmarès, being on the market for a team so late in the year meant the search was not easy for her and her former team mates.
Though Ceratizit-WNT are not one of the nine WorldTeams for next year, they will be stronger, especially with the addition of Finnish sprinter Lotta Henttala, and with the dissolution of Paule Ka they are set to be the top ranked Continental outfit, something Banks hopes will work to their advantage.
“We’re guaranteed entry to all of the WorldTour races, so that gives them the flexibility to go to the races they choose.
“For me being in a Continental women’s team is actually a bonus, it means that I get to race and we get to have the opportunities. But we don’t have the pressure to take the responsibility in races, and that means you get the freedom to do what you want and to be really attacking and to race in the way I love to.”
The truncated season, a distinct lack of opportunities for sprinters and a positive Covid-19 test for Kirsten Wild meant the Ceratizit team have not had the stellar results of 2019. However, they did win the three stage Ceratizit Challenge last weekend, expertly defending the lead Lisa Brennauer built in Saturday’s time trial, and the German champion is someone Banks believes she will work well with.
“Lisa is very similar, I think we’ll be a really dynamic pairing and a dangerous pairing, our riding styles really compliment each other, the areas where one of us is slightly weak is where the other one is slightly better.”
Despite the successes on the road 2020 was a tough year for Banks and her team mates. The team began the year as Bigla-Katusha, but when both sponsors pulled out they were left facing an existential crisis.
In June French fashion house Paule Ka appeared to save the team, just weeks later failed to live up to their financial obligations, and despite Banks’s Giro stage win and Mikayla Harvey’s fifth place on GC in Italy the team folded in October.
“When Bigla-Katusha folded it was a challenge but I never felt overwhelmed, but with the news of Paule Ka folding it was really quite a desperate situation,” Banks admitted.
“Every single team had to find extra budget for every single rider, in a normal year that’s hard enough, but in a year when there’s a global pandemic and a huge recession on the horizon that’s a huge ask for a team to take on an extra rider at such a late stage.
“It was a very stressful period because not only did you not know whether or not you were going to have a job for 2021 you didn’t know whether or not you were going to get paid for the rest of 2020.
“It was a huge challenge and I’m relieved to be out the other side now and just now to be focusing on 2021 and building up for that being the best I can for that.”