I write a lot on Podium Café, and they have a system where comments on an article close after a month, so I’m just about just put up my third in the series of “Women’s Cycling Transfers (and gossip!)” articles UPDATE! here’s the latest one. I update the articles with all the confirmed UCI-team transfer news, and all throughout the month, we share gossip, speculation, links and conversation in the comments. It’s a really nice crowd-sourced information-sharing series, and putting up a new article always gets me thinking – so I wanted to expand on some thoughts about the transfer season so far. Of course, everything can, and probably will, change very fast – think of these as a snapshot of different thoughts right now! Part 1 is about how announcements have been made (or not made) – I’ll talk more about the implications later in the week.
How teams have managed their announcements
I always like comparing these – I’m someone who really enjoys the speculation, and guessing, it soothes my road withdrawal symptoms, and makes me excited for the upcoming season, and I really like the different ways teams do this.
This transfer season, we’ve had a range of approaches. Bigla, who are stepping back up to their old status as super-team after a number of years on the smaller side, announced it with daily press releases and on twitter, over a week or two – one rider a day, with lots of promotion of “more news to come!”. It kept me keeping an eye on them, and while I don’t think we know the full line-up yet, they were probably the first “big” team to get their major line-up out. It’s a really positive change for the peloton, seeing a team step up again, and it eased the post-Worlds blues for me.
Giusfredi is another name we used to see a lot – and they’re back, lead by Rossella Ratto. We’ve been taking about this new team for a while, with hints and clues being around, but when they announced, they did it all at once.
Playing more of a slow-burn than Bigla, but possibly even more effectively, are Wiggle Honda and Matrix-Vulpine. They’re in different situations – Matrix are stepping up from UK domestic to UCI level next year, while Wiggle have been in the top rung of the UCI peloton for the last two years – but their approach has been similar. They’ve had announcements on (roughly) the same day of the week, Wiggle on Mondays, Matrix on (IIRC) Thursdays, with press releases, tweets and articles on their websites – and lots of teasing. Last week Wiggle put up this tweet, for example:
2015: 7 athletes announced, 7 athletes to be announced (including 2 more exciting new signings) and, 2 positions still open! #StrongTeam
— Wiggle Honda (@WiggleHonda) October 22, 2014
and I’ve had more people ask me what I think is going to happen with that team than with all the other teams put together. Both Wiggle and Matrix make this a lot of fun – Matrix especially built up the conversation and interaction with their “who wants some more news?” tweetery, and I love it!
It’s interesting watching how Wiggle hit their international audiences at different times – their Monday announcements of course depend where you are in the world, so the announcements about Australians have hit first thing for the Aussie Monday morning, which is Sunday night UK time, and they’ve planned for the best press for each rider, to maximise opportunities.
Their hinting isn’t exclusive to them – Boels-Dolmans and Rabobank-Liv, which seem to have announced all their big names, did this too. Rabo’s in an interesting situation, in that we knew Annemiek van Vleuten and Iris Slappendel were going to Bigla from those announcements, but the team’s staying pretty static, but they still had some fun “and one more name to be announced later!” type teasers in every announcement. Boels have made some big additions to an already stacked roster, and while I assume we’ll see a few more domestique-types signed over there, they did the same thing.
Then, on the other hand, we have the stranger ways. ORICA-AIS have been very quiet – they announced three new riders at once, along with a change of direction for the team, but since then, they’ve only confirmed riders who are staying via their rider review page – if a rider is added, we can assume she’s staying, and there have been three so far. It’s very low key, I don’t understand at all.
However, I wonder if ORICA and Liv-Shimano (aka Liv-Plantur for 2015), who have released pretty much nothing officially, have the same problem – as women’s teams attached to men’s teams, they might be under orders not to give away any news until the big men’s team reveal? Maybe we’re lucky to have as much information as we do – so at this point, the women’s cycling online detective club is assuming Emma Johansson stays at ORICA, as we haven’t heard she’s moving anywhere else.
And then there’s the total radio silence. All we know about Alé Cipollini is that a lot of riders have left, and young Italian rider Ariana Fidanza’s dad is taking over, so presumably she’s there? But Alé-Cip traditionally announce very late. Specialized-lululemon have been very quiet, with only two announcements so far, but I’m giving them a pass, as they might still be looking for sponsors for next year.
We’re pretty sure RusVelo is disappearing, as riders from there have been public about needing teams – and their website has gone 404, that’s a pretty strong clue. No one knows what’s going on with Astana-BePink – are they staying with Astana? Having total new management? Splitting and starting as a new team? Signing Anna Solovey? It’s a mystery. And the other Italian teams seem to be having problems, with Michela Fanini putting out messages that they’ll be “more competitive than ever” as their top riders sign elsewhere, and TopGirls just… silence…. I guess we’ll know by the end of the year, when the UCI publishes their list of teams.
Why is it important?
The reason it’s important, to me, is because this is when the cycling media are planning their approach for 2015, and there’s still time to get tv companies to make decisions – and races are thinking about who to invite. So the more publicity about women’s cycling, and being able to point to conversation, excitement, anticipation for the season, the better.
And of course, creating a buzz is important for sponsors, and, I’d argue, gives something back to fans who’ve supported the sport all year. If you enjoy transfer season, the hints, teasing and playfulness is a key part of that, and there’s something really satisfying about a guess or random feeling being proved right – and the left-field transfers that make you wonder “how will that team work?” keep us interested in the road season while it feels far away. I’ve loved all the conversations on Podium Café and on twitter with hardcore fans and people who are pretty new to the sport alike, it keeps us connected as a fan community. And especially this year, it feels like 2015 is going to be very different….
I’ll talk next time about what I think the changes we know might mean – it’s intriguing! But in the meantime, if you have any questions about transfer season, ask in the comments, or on twitter. I love this time of year!