Paris-Roubaix winner Servais Knaven recruits two British women for new under-23 women’s development team

Emily Wadsworth and Rhona Callander set to join the Team Rogelli-Gyproc-APB squad founded by the Team Ineos sports director

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Two British women have been selected to ride with a new European based under-23 development team founded by Team Ineos sports director Servais Knaven.

Emily Wadsworth and Rhona Callander will join the Rogelli-Gyproc-APB squad next year, and will be hoping to ride a top level calendar, including some Women’s WorldTour events. 

There is currently no Under-23 level for women, which limits development opportunities for a majority of young riders unable to successfully make the step directly from junior to elite racing.

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“We started the team because we have four daughters and they all race, and we saw how big the step is from the junior level to the elite level so we intend to do something about it.” Knaven told Cycling Weekly.

“In men’s cycling they have the under-23 category, in women’s cycling it’s not there yet. 

“It takes three or four years to adapt to the level. You have some girls who have some results in the first year, but 95 per cent coming from the juniors they need an environment where they can race. If there’s no place for the younger girls to do a programme they will quit.”

The team is an evolution of the junior outfit Knaven established for the 2018 season, and while his Pavé76 stable continues with other junior and amateur teams, the new outfit will register at UCI Women’s Continental level.

This gives the Dutch registered team access to a broad spread of races, and they have recruited foreign riders to increase their competitiveness and spread the opportunities.

“This year we have three Belgian riders and six Dutch riders, but next year we are going to expand a little with two British girls and a Swedish girl, so we will be an international development team," Knaven said.

Next season sees the introduction of two tiers of UCI Women’s teams, with WorldTeams at the top of the pyramid and Continental teams making the second level. The ProSeries, an extra tier of races between .1 and WorldTour will also be introduced, but with those races yet to be announced club teams are unable to plan for 2020.

“Next year no one really knows if Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is ProSeries or cat one, and to be sure that we can start in almost all the races we decided to become a UCI Continental team, so we can race the whole calendar” explained Knaven. 

“We are also going to aim to do some WorldTour races, and hopefully we can start in something like Amstel Gold Race.”

Knaven, who won the 2001 Paris-Roubaix, does not expect the women’s team to impact on his work with Team Ineos, with his wife doing much of the day-to-day running. However, after years in the sport, his connections have helped gather sponsors, and with more expected the team’s name may yet change.

Despite his job at one of the world’s biggest men’s teams, Knaven does not know whether Ineos are planning a women’s squad.

“I hope so. Ineos is new in cycling and they are looking at the future and making plans, so let’s see," he said. "It would be nice if we have the development [team] and Ineos would start the next step, and then we have the whole pyramid.”

Both 20 years old, Callander and Wadsworth have had excellent seasons. Callander has been riding with British Cycling’s Team Breeze, bagging top 10 results in a number European races.

Spending last winter with TP Racing on the European cyclocross circuit, Wadsworth rode the 2019 season with the all conquering domestic Brother UK-Tifosi team.

There the 20 year-old helped the squad win the Tour Series and National Road Series team standings and Becks Durrell’s National Road Series overall title.

“This year and has been an amazing stepping stone, but I was really looking to make the next step onto a European team, and riding in Holland is something that I want to do and I thought it was quite important for me,” Wadsworth said.

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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.