Looking back on a fantastic 2023 season
In 2023, a women's team with a unique hierarchical structure, providing opportunities for juniors, promising talents, and elite riders, joined forces with the renowned The Wolfpack Soudal Quick-Step, marking the inaugural year under the AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step formation. This season review takes you through a year filled with highs and lows, victories and defeats, learning experiences, and emotional moments. Our riders have experienced it all, from tears of joy to tears of sorrow, while exploring their personal limits, goals, and ambitions. Above all, it was a year characterized by friendship and unique moments as a tightly-knit team
January 2023 saw a flying start for Ally Wollaston, who first claimed victory in the Omnium during the Track League and then conquered the Schwalbe Classic on the road. She rounded off January with her second win at the New Zealand Criterium Championship and earned the title of National Champion in the U23 category in both time trial and road race, proudly wearing the New Zealand champion jersey adorned with the 'silver fern.'
February brought success for the team during the Setmana Valenciana, with Lotta Henttala finishing runner-up twice in sprints, and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio clinching victory in the queen stage, simultaneously taking the leader's jersey. Justine concluded the final day on Spanish soil as the overall winner, with Ashleigh finishing in second place. In New Zealand, Ally continued to notch up wins, securing three victories in the Track Nations Cup
In April, Eline van Rooijen and Lore De Schepper notched up the first victories for our juniors and promising talents. Eline emerged victorious in the U23 category during the Zuiderzee Ronde, while Lore De Schepper claimed the top spot in GP Chambery. Julia Kopecky (U23) later added another stage win in Leiedal Koerse. Our junior rider, Laia Bosch, triumphed in the Spanish National Cup in Almeria, while Nanoi Van Wettere secured the National Championship title on Belgian soil. Ally continued her winning streak with another triumph in the Ceratizit Festival Elsy Jacobs.
However, the season also brought its share of setbacks, with several riders falling ill or sustaining injuries during the Spring Classics. This presented challenges, both physically and mentally, as we faced the competition with incomplete lineups.
May marked the beginning of the National Championships, concluding in the first week of July, where our three teams collectively claimed a total of 16 national titles. AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step secured a victory with our Italian rider, Gaia Masetti, in La Classique Morbihan in France. We also clinched the team classification in the Bretagne Ladies Tour Ceratizit and celebrated a victory with Ashleigh in the demanding Durango – Durango.
In June, Ashleigh scored her third win of the year in the Tour des Pyrenées in Lourdes, although the third stage of the race was canceled.
July heralded the Tour de France Femmes, an eagerly anticipated race featuring a total of eight stages covering 956 kilometers. Several of our riders participated, despite being involved in a crash on the first day, which led to Mireia's premature withdrawal. Ashleigh, on the other hand, took a fifth-place finish on that challenging day. The Tour can be summarized as a fantastic week in which AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step played a prominent role among the favorites, with Ashleigh continuing to contend for overall victory and the coveted yellow jersey. The final-day time trial ultimately secured Ashleigh a solid sixth-place finish in the general classification.
Our promising talents and juniors remained in contention for victories throughout the season. Eline van Rooijen added GP Yvonne Reynders to her list of achievements, while Fee Knaven won the first stage of GP Vermarc and departed with the green jersey on the second day. Luca Vierstraete claimed victory in AG Tour de la Semois, a race sponsored by our main sponsor, AG Insurance, with a remarkable solo effort. Together, they brightened the month of August.
September began with wins by Fee Knaven, who sprinted to first place in the 20th edition of the Memorial Stanny Verlooy. On the same day, Eline van Rooijen and Britt Knaven each powered to victories in GP Beerens and the time trial at the ninth edition of the Memorial Igor Decraene in Waregem. A week later, Fee once again triumphed in a sprint finish, this time in the Ronde van Kontich. Nanoi Van Wettere racked up a victory in the Grote Prijs BV Paal, while Ilse Pluimers added the crowning glory by becoming the U23 European Champion on the road, in front of her own fans.
In addition, we announced that Lore De Schepper and Margot Marasco will compete in the U23 category from next year onwards. Ashleigh and Gaia both extended their contracts with AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step, while Jolien D’hoore, who will become a mother for the first time in November, also made significant announcements.
What a year it has been!