Zaaf edges closer to the brink

An eighth rider leaves, and the seven remaining is too few to be considered a Continental team.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 27.04.2023 Photography by
Kristof Ramon
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The Zaaf team is on the edge of collapsing as a crucial eighth rider of the original 15-strong roster announced she was leaving the squad.

UCI regulations state teams must have eight riders in order to hold a Continental women’s team licence. After the Egyptian rider Ebtissam Zayed Ahmed announced she had resigned from the team, the squad is now left with only seven registered athletes. UCI rules don’t spell out the exact consequences or timeline when a team falls below the threshold, saying only that it has the right to withdraw the registration of a team that does not meet the minimum conditions for a license. We’ve asked the UCI for comment and will update with any response.

As detailed in an Escape Collective investigation published earlier this week, riders have gone without pay, covering their own expenses, as well as being subject to sexist comments and controlling behaviour from staff members.

The team is still slated to take part in this weekend’s reVolta, but it withdrew from participation in next week’s Vuelta Femenina. Its entry into the Itzulia Women stage race in May will now be watched closely too, while the UCI has told Cycling News that it is now monitoring the team “on a daily basis” as part of its investigation.

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A post shared by Ebtissam Zaied – إبتسام زايد (@ebtsam.z)

“I want to announce that I’ve left the ZAAF cycling team from today,” Zayed posted on Instagram. “The current situation made everything quite uncomfortable and it was the right moment to make this choice. I have shared great moments with my teammates and I wish them all the best in the future. I stay positive and I am looking forward to see new opportunities coming.

“This is definitely not what I was expecting for this season but I will stay strong physically and mentally and I will continue to work hard especially for the next track cycling world championship in Glasgow at the beginning of August which is an important step for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Thank you to all the people who support me everywhere and every time.”

Zayed follows seven of her former teammates out the door: the team’s star rider Audrey Cordon-Ragot as well as Lucie Jounier, Mareille Meijering, Elizabeth Stannard, Heidi Franz, Michaela Drummond, and Maggie Coles-Lyster.

Some of the riders have found new teams as the UCI granted them exemptions to the June 1 transfer window opening. Cordon-Ragot has signed with Human Powered Health, Jounier has moved to Coop-Hitec, while Meijering has gone to Movistar and Stannard to Israel-Premier Tech Roland.

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