This is the Zaaf Team, the new Spanish women’s cycling project

Spain wants to be an active part of this constant evolution, sports and media, in which cycling has been immersed in recent times. And for this 2023, beyond carefully following the growth of emerging stars such as Carlos Rodríguez and Juan Ayuso, a new illusion in professionalism is born: the Zaaf Team. The new Spanish women’s cycling team, with its base of operations in Girona, has closed some efforts against the clock that began last July, at which time Riad Belatreche decided to pay tribute to his late grandfather, Abdel-Kader Zaaf, professional in the 50s, with the creation of a team that bore his last name.

“I was trying to put together a team for cadet girls and doors opened for me to put together a bigger team, an Italian team. After a while I received a call from Riad, Zaaf’s grandson, and he told me that he wanted to set up a high-level team and if I was interested. We got together and came to an agreement pretty quickly, and that’s how this project started last July. We have gone in tow with all the negotiations and up to the last moment, but everything turned out very well”, explained to AS Manuel Lacambra, the project’s top sports manager, about the origin of this new squad.

This logistical frenzy, as Lacambra acknowledges, had an influence when it came to making a squad that, however, will count among its fifteen runners with names of international prestige, above all, in the figure of a Audrey Cordon-Ragot (33 years old) who comes from one of the greatest powers in cycling, as is the group Trek Segafredo, where he shared stripes with cyclists like Elisa Balsamo and Elisa Longo Borghini: “I am very happy because at the beginning, as we started quite late, we could not find free runners. I signed ten first and decided to take a risk and wait for myself even if I wanted to sign more. The play turned out well for me because several girls from a French team that dissolved were left without a team and I was able to complete the squad with five other good riders who have raised the level of the team. I have already had a large part of the team training in Girona and we are super happy, looking forward to it”.

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In addition to the French, current national road and time trial champion, the Zaaf will have Spanish promises like Eva Anguela (20 years), Lucia Garcia (18) and Martha Romance (22) to complete a solid block that allows him to perform in all kinds of races in his debut in the elite. “We have a competent team for all terrains. I think they can perform better than they have up to now. They are second swords, young talents, who can stand out worldwide”, says Lacambra, in addition to trusting in some good performance already in this first season: “We did not have a super-defined leader, such as a world top-10, so our team is more off-road. Even so, I think we are going to be able to give some surprises. We are going to do better than expected. It is important to study talents, their data, change training methods, improve salaries, quality of life…”.

“We don’t have a world top-10, but I think we will give some surprises”

Manel Lacambra, Zaaf Team

We won’t have to wait long to see a good part of them in action, since the team will start shooting in competition in Australia, in a Tour Down Under (January 15 to 17) that returns to the calendar after the pandemic and that will help them gain shape for La Vuelta, the Giro Donne and the Tour, since, as Lacambra acknowledges, “the invitations to said races are well on track”. For the head of the team, these will be the first brushstrokes of a project that looks to the future with ambition: “We will see how the issue of points ends at the end of the year to see if we could enter the World Tour in 2024, although it is not an obsession . We can meet the economic issue without any problem, but sports is something else because there will be teams that beat us. We have a World Tour level organization, although we are not. Transfers? I will always aim for the best. I cannot say a name directly thinking about the future, but in July I took the UCI ranking and from the first, Van Vleuten and Vos, I was asking one by one to find out if they had a contract or not. About I already have names that I know will end their contract in 2023 to try top-level signings ”. The countdown has begun.

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