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THE WILD ONES


The wild woman in each of us is different
But that uniqueness is what makes us special


Meet the wild women of CANYON//SRAM as they prepare for the new year. After a slew of impressive results in stage races, classics and Monuments throughout 2019, we get a rare glimpse into a moment of unguarded introspection.

American all-rounder Alexis Ryan has been with the team since it became CANYON//SRAM in 2016, making her one of its longest-serving members. In that time, the Californian has seen her share of podiums and personnel changes alike, and knows firsthand what does and doesn’t make a good team tick.

“It starts where every individual on the team understands and respects that everyone is unique in their own way, and has their own power. If we all have that foundation then you can respect everyone and everyone feels comfortable in the environment. We’ve struggled with that a lot over the past few years, but this camp feels different.”.

In 2017, final-year medical student Tanja Erath beat 2,100 other contestants over the course of a three-month-long competition to win a spot on the team. While the riders are together, the latest winner of the Zwift Academy is announced – Australian Jess Pratt – and this brings Tanja’s experience flooding back.

“I used to watch videos of the team on YouTube before every workout to motivate myself. Then you look on Strava, check the numbers from the other girls and you’re like, oh, I’m not strong enough. You’re so close to your dream coming true, and you really want this. And then suddenly they tell you you made it. It’s unbelievable.”

The team’s Polish powerhouse, Niewiadoma is always one to watch. Just last year she powered to a thrilling win at Ardennes classic Amstel Gold, beating road world champion Annemiek van Vleuten in the process.

“Sometimes it’s difficult, you’re surrounded by so many powerful women. You want to match everyone. But you’re a completely different person. It’s easy to feel small because somebody else is stronger or faster. It can be so hard to believe that you’re a different person, an individual. I don’t have to follow others’ dreams – I have my own dream.”

Last year, Alice Barnes took a definitive step out from the shadow of older sister Hannah by winning both the road race and individual time trial National Championship titles. In 2020, she’ll be racing in British champ stripes, marking her out on the road as one of the peloton’s exceptional talents. Her life has been defined by the bike, and it’s not often you’ll find her away from it.

“I don’t like being on my own at home. When I go on my bike, I feel different. I feel quite free, I can have my own thoughts.”

As with the other riders on the team, Rotem’s palmares are impressive. She’s been a national champion on the road and off it, competing at XC MTB, and often finds herself competing at a national level against teammate Omer Shapira. Even if Rotem reckons she’s reticent, some teammates disagree.

“You’re not quiet to me anymore, we talk so much,” says teammate Tanja. “I can completely trust her, and as soon as I see her in the peloton I feel safe. She brought me back several times when I was dropped. When I see her I feel like I’m in the right place.”

Alice isn’t the only Barnes to have worn the bands. In 2016, older sister Hannah won the road title, and two years later wore the stripes as time trial champion. The talent in the family is undeniable, and the pair are frequently mixed up. From family holidays together to racing with and against the most talented riders in the world, the sisterly bond they share is undoubtedly a benefit, but it’s not one that they’ll let get in the way.

“We act the same as we do with everyone else – you have to see everyone on the team as a sister. We go through some difficult and tough times together. What makes us so close are those moments. That’s how a family is, everyone hoping for you to do the best you can.”

Joining the team in 2017 at the tender age of 19 as a stagiaire – or trainee – Christa’s spent her entire professional career with CANYON//SRAM.

“I’m an active person with a strong life force, I appreciate every new day that gives new chances and possibilities. But at the moment I feel tamed, having to rely on others. In moments like this, family and friends are the most important, and I’m really fortunate to have caring teammates. Even now when I am at home they are thinking of me and asking how I am and how my recovery is going. Not only the physical but also the mental side is really important. Their support gives me a lot of strength back, knowing I’m not alone.”

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Read the latest stories from inside the peloton, with new features and interviews added regularly.

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