UAE Team ADQ Team Talk: Reaping the rewards of new development pathway

GCN reviews a dependable season for the Emirati squad, as Chiara Consonni and Silvia Persico continue to impress

Clock20:00, Tuesday 7th November 2023
The inaugural UAE Tour Women saw the home team finish third on GC through Silvia Persico, and take the overall team classification

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

The inaugural UAE Tour Women saw the home team finish third on GC through Silvia Persico, and take the overall team classification

In their second year as UAE Team ADQ, the team formerly known as Alé BTC Ljubljana rose from seventh in the UCI's Women's WorldTour rankings up to fourth by the end of 2023. This move is indicative of the improvements that were made by the team this season, no doubt aided by the dissolution of Valcar-Travel & Service at the end of 2022.

The Italian Continental side closed over the winter and transitioned into UAE's Development Team, with five riders making the move straight to UAE Team ADQ's WorldTour squad: Karolina Kumiega, Eleonora Camilla Gasparrini, Olivia Baril, Chiara Consonni and Silvia Persico.

Over half of the team's victories this year were taken by the new signings, as UAE Team ADQ notched up a series of notable victories, including their first Grand Tour stage under their new moniker.

Turning their attention to 2024, the team will hope to see some of their younger riders progress further and the team's victory tally rise, but 2023 was another good step forward for team boss Melissa Moncada's squad.

GCN's 2023 Review

With the new additions from Valcar-Travel & Service, alongside those of Lizzie Holden (from Le Col-Wahoo), Mikayla Harvey and Alena Amialiusik (both from Canyon-SRAM), the Emirati WorldTeam went a long way in replacing the firepower lost with the departure of Mavi García to Liv Racing TeqFind.

Taking a bolstered squad into the 2023 campaign, UAE Team ADQ picked up 13 victories throughout the course of the season, which for any team other than the imperious SD Worx, is a commendable haul.

Read more: SD Worx Team Talk: How can the dominant force in women's cycling get any better?

This number may be down on the team's 17 victories from 2022, but five of those were taken at National Championships and this year's victories were arguably taken in more prestigious races.

The year started brightly for UAE Team ADQ and new signing Persico, who was the best of the rest on Jebel Hafeet's summit finish at the UAE Tour Women, behind Trek-Segafredo's Elisa Longo Borghini and Gaia Realini.

With this being the inaugural edition of the UAE Tour Women, it was always going to be an important target for the UAE's first WorldTeam, and the squad duly delivered - with Persico finishing third on GC and the team winning the team classification.

After having been a flagship rider for the team in its various guises since 2016, the expected retirement of Marta Bastianelli at the end of the 2022 season seemed like it would be inevitably a big loss for UAE Team ADQ. It was a welcome sight, however, to see Bastianelli postpone her retirement until the end of the 2023 Giro d'Italia Donne. The former world champion wasted no time in showing that her determination had not waned, picking up the team's first victory of the season at Les Samyn des Dames in February as they kicked off a successful Spring.

Silvia Persico sprinted to victory ahead of Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Liane Lippert (Movistar) at De Brabantse Pijl, a result that seemed imminent after she took sixth place at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and fourth place at the Tour of Flanders. Two top-10s followed at Amstel Gold and Liège-Bastogne-Liège as Persico rounded off a very impressive Spring campaign.

In the weeks prior, Consonni finished second at Dwars door Vlaanderen and Bastianelli placed third at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, with both riders only missing out on the win in the face of remarkable performances from SD Worx. Consonni's quick finish delivered her to the win at Trofee Maarten Wynants in May, but it was in the stage races that UAE Team ADQ flourished for the rest of the season.

Bastianelli had kicked things off by winning stage 1 of the Ceratizit Festival Elsy Jacobs, before Gasparrini opened up her account with her new team with victory on stage 3 at the Tour de Suisse. The 21-year-old's win was the team's first in a WorldTour race, but they would not wait long to add to that tally.

Ever the reliable sprinter when well positioned, Consonni handed UAE Team ADQ their biggest win of the season on stage 9 of the Giro d'Italia Donne. In pipping Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) and Ally Wollaston (AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step) to the line in Olbia, Consonni picked up the first Grand Tour stage win since the team became Emirati.

Five of the team's eight winners this season were new signings for 2023, the last of whom was the Canadian Baril, who came up trumps at the Tour Féminin de l'Ardèche to take a one-two alongside teammate Erica Magnaldi on the final stage. Magnaldi's performance secured her second overall to mark another consistent season for the Italian climber.

The French stage race may have been Magnaldi's best result on paper in 2023, but she will be most pleased with fifth place at the Giro d'Italia Donne.

As with Magnaldi, it wasn't all about the new signings for UAE Team ADQ this season. 26-year-old climber Sofia Bertizzolo was quiet for much of the first half of the year, but picked up a series of top-10s in the final months of the season and managed to win both stage 1 and the points classification at the Tour de Romandie Féminin in September.

With an emphasis on sprinters and puncheurs within their squad, it is perhaps not a surprise that UAE Team ADQ did not pull up too many trees in terms of general classification victories this season.

The Emirati squad had to wait until the final WorldTour stage race of the season to pick up their first overall victory, with Consonni finishing fourth, third and first in the three stages of the Tour of Chongming Island. Her consistency earned her both the overall title and the points classification come the end of the race.

GCN's rating: 7/10

A dependable, if not spectacular, season for UAE Team ADQ is perhaps in line with their expectations as they slowly build under the new team structure.

Ins & Outs

Having preempted the moment since the midway point of the 2022 campaign, UAE Team ADQ enjoyed plenty of time to prepare for the retirement of veteran Marta Bastianelli. Having postponed her farewell this time last year, the Italian finally pulled the curtain down on a fine career at the Giro d'Italia Donne.

With Chiara Consonni having arrived from Valcar-Travel & Service over the winter, the team have been able to benefit from a classic master/apprentice situation, with Consonni the undisputed heir to Bastianelli's throne. Both are similar riders and the former has already more than demonstrated her ability to lead the team in Bastianelli's absence.

For that reason, it feels the time is right for Bastianelli to draw the curtain down on her third and final spell with the team.

Elsewhere, the biggest loss for the team will be felt in the form of Olivia Baril's departure to Movistar. The Canadian had made quite a name for herself with her performances in her first season with UAE Team ADQ. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that Baril was a diamond in the rough when she made the step up to WorldTour level, and UAE Team ADQ will hope to have a similarly positive impression on new recruit Dominika Włodarczyk. The 22-year-old joins from MAT Atom Deweloper Wrocław and looks to have the making of an impressive climber.

Joining the Polish rider in bolstering UAE Team ADQ's ranks will be Tereza Neumanova (Liv Racing TeqFind) and Karlijn Swinkels (Jumbo-Visma), the latter of whom looks to be quite the well-rounded GC talent.

Where UAE Team ADQ's wins will come in 2024

Swinkels may hit the ground running and prove herself in some of the early season stage races, but the majority of the victories for UAE Team ADQ will come from within their existing roster.

Consonni is the headline act and, at 24 years of age, is ripe to make the step up and fill Bastianelli's role as the team's flagship rider. The sprinting division within the Women's WorldTour peloton is largely run by Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) and Charlotte Kool (dsm-firmenich), but Consonni should be mopping up at races these two don't feature in.

Meanwhile, eyes will turn to Persico, Bertizzolo and Magnaldi to chip in with regular victories and good results, all of whom can realistically target stage wins in the Grand Tours. For Persico in particular, 2024 will be an important season, given her steady rise to becoming one of the peloton's strongest climbers.

Four top-10s in the Giro d'Italia Donne this year accompanied an eighth-place finish overall, and there is certainly a sense she can improve on this standing, alongside those of 12th at La Vuelta Femenina and 14th at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.

UAE Team ADQ's next breakout rider

Although the likes of Persico, Bastianelli and Consonni took much of the plaudits for UAE Team ADQ in 2023, one rider who enjoyed a consistent season was the young Eleonora Camilla Gasparrini. At just 21 years of age, 2023 was only her third season in the pro ranks, but she proved more than at home alongside the world's best.

Her best spell of form came earlier in the campaign, with impressive rides at Ceratizit Festival Elsy Jacobs, RideLondon Classique and Tour de Suisse peaking with a stage victory in the latter.

The Italian is a strong climber but also packs a handy sprint, as seen in the Tour de Suisse. Improving year on year thus far in the peloton, Gasparrini should be a good bet to at least pick up a victory or two in 2024, whilst further establishing herself in stage races.

How do you think UAE Team ADQ will fare without Marta Bastianelli and Olivia Baril next season? Can they become one of the Women's WorldTour's best three teams? Let us know in the comments below!

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