Last season was a tumultuous one for Colorado resident and French native Caroline Mani. Mani kicked off 2016 by finishing second at Worlds in Heusden-Zolder and then continued her success in the new season with a second-place finish at the Jingle Cross World Cup. After racking up 11 top 5 finishes in the first 2 months of the 2016 season, Mani raced only once between the Derby City Cup at the beginning of November and the French National Championships in January.
We know now that Mani’s absence from the racing circuit was due in part to a dispute with her team, although we are still unclear on all the details. Mani returned in January and won her fourth French national championship, but she was not the same rider from earlier in the season at the last two World Cups and the World Championships in Bieles.
We saw Mani earlier in 2017 wearing a plain kit at the Sea Otter Classic cyclocross race, which suggested she had yet to find a team for the upcoming season. That was verified about a month ago when we found out, up to that point, Mani had been unable to secure sponsorship for the 2017/18 season and was using a GoFundMe to try to raise enough money to race this season. Needless to say, it was a bit surprising to see a woman just 18 months removed from a silver at Worlds and ranked 9th in the world having to crowd source funds to race cyclocross this season.
Caroline Mani Signs with Van Dessel Factory Racing Team
On Wednesday we learned that Mani has found a team and will be racing cyclocross this season. The Van Dessel Factory racing team announced that Mani will be headlining its roster for the 2017/18 season.
Mani will be joined by Cassie Maximenko of Connecticut and Sunny Gilbert of Missouri on Van Dessel’s Elite Women roster. Gilbert is coming off a season where she recorded several UCI top tens and a ninth-place finish at U.S. Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford.
Van Dessel’s roster will also feature several young riders, including Petra Schmidtmann, who finished second in the Women’s 15-16 category at Nationals; Tyler Smith who will be racing as a Junior; and George Schulz who will be racing his debut season as a U23 rider. Members of Canadian Derrick St. John’s Van Dessel presented by Hyperthreads team will also be joining him in riding Van Dessel bikes.
Laura Van Gilder of Pennsylvania will be racing for her Mellow Mushroom/ Van Dessel team, Issac Neff of Wisconsin will be riding Van Dessel as part of his Neff Cycle Service team and Jessica Cutler of Washington will be riding a Van Dessel bike for the NWCX team.
Edwin Bull, founder and President of Van Dessel, said he expects a well-rounded team this season. “We have an incredibly talented line up of riders, both on the Factory Team and others, riding inspired on Van Dessel this ’cross season,” said Bull.” As a brand steeped in Belgian tradition, it’s exciting to see so many gifted athletes on our bikes in the discipline that is nearest and dearest to our heart. I am excited to see what this season holds for us.”