Next generation in cycling

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The 2024 season, which got underway last month, came with an important milestone in the history of AG Insurance – Soudal: the move from the Continental level to the World Tour, a well-deserved one following a remarkable 2023 campaign which has seen the team score victories and points in some of the most important races on the calendar.

This newly-earned World Tour status opens the door for the growth of the squad’s promising riders by giving them the opportunity to gain experience on a regular basis at the highest level. The team, which has significantly strengthened with the addition of Julie Van De Velde, Sarah Gigante, and Kim Le Court, is a versatile, robust and incredibly motivated one, ready to take on the challenges and demanding events of the World Tour.

Entering 2024 with a lot of optimism and enthusiasm, AG Insurance – Soudal started out the season with a bang, taking a resounding victory in the very first event of the calendar, the Santos Tour Down Under. That outstanding result brought by a young roster served as confirmation of the team’s growth, which has been one of its pillars since it was founded.

“The team has developed a lot on all levels in recent seasons and this is something remarkable, which underlines how healthy this project is. We are impressed by how they’ve grown, of the clear goals and patience they have, and of how they give opportunities to the young riders. We are a proud sponsor of this team and we are hopeful to see them perform also this year and continue their upward trajectory. It’s important that the squad remains committed to its objective of developing women’s cycling”, said Jan Heyvaert from AG Insurance.

“We share the values that AG Insurance is focusing on. We are here for the long run and we are incredibly committed to this project, because we too have the firm belief that it’s important to build the future. This team is a beautiful one, gets all the basics right, it’s ambitious, continues to grow at a steady pace, and for us, as a company, sponsoring them is the obvious thing to do and we’re happy to be part of this squad”, added Soudal’s Luc Thys.

 “We are a very young team and we try to grow. We have sponsors who are 100% supporting this project. We’ve had a perfect start to the season, with the wins in Down Under, and I’m excited about the next races of the team. It’s important to have this kind of sponsors, who back this project from the youth teams all the way up to the World Tour squad, because this is how the sport can develop and continue in the right direction”, said Patrick Lefevere.

General manager of the AG Insurance – Soudal Team Natascha den Ouden echoed these thoughts: “Growing as a cyclist and as a person is very important. These riders are the next stars. We have a very good U23 group and their main goals will be the Nationals and the European Championships. Some of them may also go to the Olympics. They are looking forward to riding alongside the elite. These are important steps in their development. We have very good coaches and sports directors who lead them in the races, educating them, explaining tactics, and the best part is that they are all willing to learn.”

“In the past we were a development team, but things changed last year. We’ve learned a lot, gained experience, and I think all these things were visible in the beginning of this season. We also relied on Ashleigh, who continues to be an important part of our squad, who is someone capable of bringing something extra to the team and helping the young riders”, explained sports director Servais Knaven. “We have many goals for this year, from the Belgian races to the Tour de France Femmes. The Nationals Championships are also important. We have a lot of talent and we’ve enjoyed a wonderful start in Down Under. We also had a good training camp in Mallorca and did some testing in the wind tunnel, and this shows we are committed to work and improve in all aspects.”

“It’s important to show ourselves in the Belgian races having Belgian sponsors. We did a very good Tour de France Femmes last year and we want to do even better this season. Our goals remain the same, do our best and get the best result possible. The great thing about this squad is that they all ride together as a team, everybody who is on the start line has the potential to win the race. We also have Ashleigh, who is a huge inspiration for the team, a real leader with incredible experience, and someone who can teach the young riders”, said sports director Jolien D’hoore.

For Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, a top-ten finisher last year at the Tour de France Femmes and winner of several races, this will be her last season in the pro ranks, and she is motivated to make the most out of it: “I’m not getting any younger but I’m still learning, because you’re never too old to learn and to improve, and that’s really important, to be open-minded all the time. I had a good off-season and I’m motivated for this year. I am looking forward to the Ardennes Classics, and especially to Fleche Wallonne, and then to the Tour de France Femmes, where we all hope for another solid outing.”

One of the team’s new additions for 2024 and a rider who turned heads during last year’s Tour de France Femmes, Julie Van de Velde had only words of praise for the entire organisation: “I am very happy to be here in this team. I got a great welcome the moment I joined them and it really felt like coming home. Everyone is so professional, we get great equipment and the perfect environment to do what we love the most.”

Last but not least, Santos Tour Down Under winner Sarah Gigante winner talked about her impressions after the first couple of months with AG Insurance – Soudal: “I like it here, it feels like home. We have an amazing staff and team, and we are all learning to become better. In Australia we’ve all shown a fantastic team effort that stood out the whole weekend. We also had a lot of fun, and it’s great to have such a team around you, because it helps you believe in yourself and get an extra boost of confidence.”