Team bizhub have retained the services of former Norwegian champion Linn Torp for the 2011 season after an impressive run in the end-of-season national classics, according to a statement released by Konica Minolta today.
This comes after the office automation company had announced an extension of its initial one-year sponsorship of the fledgling women’s professional cycling team.
Following a low-key start due to seasonal challenges, Torp made a far greater impact upon her return to South African racing in mid-October after completing her European commitments.
She finished runner-up in the MTN OFM Classic in Bloemfontein earlier this month, won the 2 Provinces Cycle Challenge in Orkney last weekend and placed fourth in the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Torp (33) and British star Catherine Williamson (28), who had also signed on for another season after a podium finish in the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, will form the nucleus of the overseas contingent in a squad that currently consists of eight riders but is due to be extended to 10.
“By signing the overseas riders, we brought something new to women’s cycling in this country,” said team owner John Robertson. “They had a huge impact on the racing and the team.”
He said the girls – which included triple Swiss national champion Jennifer Hohl –had a great work ethic and were easy to work with. “They are great ambassadors for European cycling and I think our young riders could learn a lot from them.”
Robertson said it had been a dream of his to establish a top international women’s UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) team. “Having worked with these girls, I’m even more motivated to achieve this goal.”
He said they were currently in discussions with Konica Minolta Europe to assist them with an overseas racing programme in the coming year. “We’ll make further decisions about racing on the Continent after April, as this would require us to have more Europeans on the team.”
Robertson said although he felt the team had lacked a big-name sprinter, they had an outstanding first season as a unit. “We are limited by the depth of talent currently available in South Africa; therefore our focus, as in the past, is on developing future champions.”
Team bizhub will place a much greater emphasis on the mountain biking circuit in 2011 with six riders expressly signed for this purpose.
“It’s important to adapt to changing times,” said Robertson. “I’d say two-thirds of our exposure has been mountain bike related.”
He said it was still important to have a road team present at all the major classics, but they would be more selective in their choice of races.
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