Team dsm-firmenich looked to solidify their women’s roster for 2024 and beyond with the signing of a trio of riders – Italian Rachele Barbieri and British U23 riders Josie Nelson and Abi Smith.
Barbieri and Nelson signed for the next three seasons to carry through to 2026, while 21-year-old Smith was confirmed for 2024 and 2025. The team recently renewed the contracts for sprint star Charlotte Kool and Classics leader Pfeiffer Georgi, and all three new riders would play key roles for continued success.
Barbieri is a versatile rider who completed her sixth pro season on the road, the last two years with Liv Racing. She not only brings experience to Team dsm-firmenich, but also the speed as another option for Kool to win races, according to Head Coach Rudi Kemna.
“She has shown that she is a good sprinter in her own right and can finish off races, but she also is a very capable lead-out rider too,” Kemna said. “We see her fitting in very well to the lead-out and sprint group that we have in our Women’s program where she can act as the last rider when we have Charlotte as our finisher, but Rachele will also get some opportunities too.”
The 26-year-old demonstrated her speed in stage racing in 2022 with a stage 3 victory at the Bloeizone Fryslan Tour (formerly Healthy Ageing Tour) and second place in the points classification, as well as a second place on stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia Donne. In addition to a silver medal at Italian road nationals, she took third at Scheldeprijs and sixth at Tour of Flanders.
On the track, she won the 2017 World title in the scratch race for Italy, and also has gold medals in the madison and omnium events from the European Championships.
“I’m looking forward to joining the sprint group and helping Charlotte [Kool] in the finales,“ she said in a team statement. “Everyone works really hard for one goal and that makes me really excited to become a part of the team. I have big dreams and ambitions still and I think that at Team dsm-frimenich all of the support and resources are available for me to help realise them.”
Nelson and Smith have been fixtures on British Cycling teams for several years, Nelson winning the 2022 Criterium nationals and this year finishing second in road race nationals to new teammate Georgi. Smith first hit the radar two years ago with a bronze medal at British Nationals in the women’s under-23 time trial.
All-round abilities were highlighted by Nelson this season at Team Coop-Hitec with a fourth place on the queen stage of the Tour of Scandinavia a fourth place at the Cadel Road Race.
Smith was part of the US-based EF Education-TIBCO-SVB team the last two-and-a-half years, which has now folded. She raced in the spring Classics and several stage races during her time with EF, earning a top 10 on stage 2 at Santos Tour Down Under and was one spot off the podium at the domestic Ryedale Grasscrete Grand Prix. Two bouts with COVID-19 and an injury have limited her race days, but she looked forward to continuing her development.
“Josie is a talented rider and has showed she is capable of performing on a variety of terrain. Looking at her skillset long-term, we believe that she can grow into a rider that can potentially compete in the finals of hilly one day races, but in the immediate future she will also be able to provide strong support in those type of races too,” Kemna commented.
“Abi has a very big engine but has suffered from setbacks in the previous seasons. Aside from her potential against the clock, we think that Abi can develop into an all-round rider with the team. She can use her power to help control and catch the breakaway to set-up a sprint for example, but she also can climb well, so can be an important factor deeper into races such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège so that we have more numbers in the finale.”