The season has only just gotten underway, yet the Bigla-KATUSHA riders have declared themselves a force to be reckoned with in the peloton this year. Having only raced five days in Europe, in addition to three days in New Zealand with our Kiwi riders, the team has already taken four wins, and 16 top-ten placings, in races as well as individual stages.
The first rider to take a victory was 19-year-old Niamh Fisher-Black, who prevailed at Gravel and Tar la Femme in January, before going on to take the New Zealand national road title the next month. Niamh added a bronze medal in the national time trial championships to her palmarès, where she shared the podium with Mikayla Harvey, who took second in the race against the clock.
Meanwhile, the team in Europe had been fine-tuning preparations for the upcoming season at our Partner and Performance Camp, part of which included their participation at the Vuelta CV Feminas in Valencia, where Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen took sixth place in the sprint finish after a long period away from racing last year due to injury.
At the conclusion of the camp, the team immediately got stuck into racing at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, where Emma was able to take the win and the leader’s jersey on the first stage. This was followed the next day by a strong performance by new signing Marlen Reusser in a solo breakaway, as well as Clara Koppenburg, who climbed her way into second in the GC after a testing mountainous stage. She was joined by three other teammates in the top ten by day’s end. The fourth and final stage, however, is when the team put on a display of incredible tactics and teamwork, to dictate the race right from the get-go. Setting a high pace from the first few kilometres of racing, Bigla-KATUSHA dominated the stage, fielding four riders in a leading group of 10, which the team then used as a springboard for further attacks, in an attempt to isolate the GC leader. The day ended in the team’s second stage win of the four-day race, with Leah Thomas prevailing in the sprint in Vila-Real from a reduced group. As a result of this sustained effort by the entire team over the course of the race, Bigla-KATUSHA took the team classification, in addition to placing Clara Koppenburg in second place in the GC, with Leah and Marlen also taking fourth and fifth place respectively.
So what’s next for the Swiss outfit? We’re heading to Belgium for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Omloop van het Hageland and Le Samyn, and then Italy for Strade Bianche. If the team continues on this trajectory with strong teamwork and tactics, it will be sure to build upon these early successes and enjoy a solid Spring campaign.
The team’s top performances in each race:
Gravel and Tar la femme: 1st (Niamh Fisher Black)
NZ National Championships (Time Trial): 2nd (Mikayla Harvey), 3rd (Niamh Fisher-Black)
NZ National Championships (Road): 1st (Niamh Fisher-Black)
Vuelta CV Feminas: 6th (Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen)
Stage 1 Setmana Ciclista Valenciana: 1st (Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen)
Stage 2 Setmana Ciclista Valenciana: 3rd (Clara Koppenburg)
Stage 3 Setmana Ciclista Valenciana: 4th (Emma Norsgaard Jørgensen)
Stage 4 Setmana Ciclista Valenciana: 1st (Leah Thomas)
GC Setmana Ciclista Valenciana: 2nd (Clara Koppenburg)