Canyon//SRAM is a team which has never been afraid to look for new and innovative ways to broaden and diversify the talent in the Women’s WorldTour. In 2015, the team launched the Zwift Academy, a talent identification programme based solely on the virtual training platform. The Academy has since given riders from all over the world a chance to try out for one of the world’s leading women’s teams, without having the barrier of travelling to Europe to make themselves seen. With their new initiative, the Canyon//SRAM Generation, the German outfit are hoping to take things even further.
In July of last year, Canyon//SRAM announced that they would be launching a Continental development team which would serve as a feeder team into the WorldTour squad. Team manager Ronny Lauke received 239 applications from riders of 62 different nationalities for the team, highlighting the need and demand for these initiatives in the women’s peloton. The team confirmed that the “focus will be on, but not limited to, Africa, Asia, and South America” during the selection process.
The team have today announced the eight riders who will form part of this new team, now called “The Canyon//SRAM Generation.” With riders from seven different countries, it’s a diverse line-up, made up of athletes who have performed well domestically in their respective nations. Due to UCI rules stipulating that the team must have riders from the area in which they are registered, two German riders also complete the Canyon//SRAM Generation roster.
Listed as the team captain is Paraguayan rider, Agua Marina Espínola. The first cyclist to ever represent Paraguay at the Olympics, the 25-year-old is a promising talent, though she is all too familiar with the barriers riders from lesser-known countries face when trying to enter the sport. “This [team] is a big hope for me,” she explained in the team’s press release. “The fact that such an important team such as Canyon//SRAM Racing believes in this project and has provided this opportunity is amazing and a sign that things can change for the better. I’m really happy to be part of this change and to have this opportunity.”
Joining Salinas on the pioneering new team is the 2018 Tour de Lunsar winner, Fatima Deborah Conteh. Unlike Salinas, Conteh is yet to race outside of Sierra Leone and faced issues securing her visa to travel to Europe late last year – a problem faced by many riders, and one which Canyon//SRAM Generation will aim to assist them in overcoming. Conteh is known as a sprinting talent and will be aiming to show this in the team’s calendar of UCI races this coming season.
2019 Rwandan road race chamoion Valantine Nzayisenga, Malaysian track cyclist Siti Nur Alia Mansor, Caribbean road race bronze medallist Llori Sharpe, and Olivia Shililifa, the current U23 Namibian road champion, will also be part of the roster. From Germany, Antonia Niedermaier and Ricarda Bauernfeind will also be part of the team. Niedermaier has a background in ski mountaineering and looks to transfer these skills on to the road, while Bauernfeind is a strong climber who took bronze at the elite German National Championships in 2021.
The team’s inception comes as part Canyon//SRAM’s wider diversity and inclusion programme. Last year, Christine Kalkschmid was appointed to the role of Team Development and Diversity and Inclusion expert to build and implement the team’s programme.
“We did not only want to ensure applications from promising riders from a performance point of view, we also wanted to make sure that we create a new team of ambassadors for Diversity and Inclusion. We requested information about performance data and previous successes of the applicants but also about their values and goals and how they think they can contribute to the team’s success,” Kalkschmid explained.
Canyon//SRAM Generation will ride custom Canyon team bikes and also have had a striking jersey created by Ultan Coyle, an ex-Rapha designer who designed the WorldTour team's kit. Though it has its own distinctive look, the diamond pattern on the sleeves links the development team’s jersey with that of the WorldTour team which was released earlier this week.
Speaking to Rouleur last year, team manager Lauke explained that Canyon//SRAM generation will have the same support network as the WorldTour team, such as training camps, mechanics and physiotherapists. In addition, the team will cover the costs of the riders as they base themselves in Europe for the season.
The inception of the Canyon//SRAM Generation is a well-needed step towards creating a more diverse peloton and giving more opportunities to riders who face barriers to entry in cycling.
Canyon Bicycles founder Roman Arnold added: “Making it as a professional cyclist is never easy, and it’s almost impossible for riders who don’t have access to the support networks they need. Through the Canyon//SRAM Generation team, we look to help change that by identifying and nourishing new female racing talent to achieve its full potential from across the globe. I cannot wait to see what they achieve.”