Pro women’s cycling team relocates operations to Roanoke

The VBR TWENTY24 team takes a picture with Roanoke City Council members on Saturday afternoon.
The VBR TWENTY24 team takes a picture with Roanoke City Council members on Saturday afternoon.(Will Thomas)
Published: Jan. 22, 2022 at 9:31 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - “The road to Paris for women’s cycling starts in Virginia’s Blue Ridge now.” The loud sound of air horns immediately followed the wrap-up of the special announcement Saturday afternoon.

State and Roanoke leaders joined Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge and the Virginia Tourism Corporation to announce Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 will soon make Roanoke its new home.

“Having a pro women’s cycling team moving here from out west, that certainly gives us credibility that I don’t think too many people could see coming. But there is going to be a lot of interest in our area,” said Landon Howard, President of VVBR.

The formerly Boise, Idaho-based organization was founded by Nicola Cranmer. It includes dozens of decorated Olympians and athletes who have made their mark in the women’s pro cycling world.

Those marks include a combined 14 Olympic and Paralympic medals, 17 world championships and too many national championships to count.

“I’ve run a high performance team for many, many years and we have lots of Olympic accomplishments. But I’ve never felt the community like I have from being here,” said Cranmer.

Saturday was also a homecoming for women’s cycling Olympian and Roanoke College graduate Shelley Olds.

“This new team with all these diverse athletes from all over the world, and I know what she’s going to be able to do for them, and it’s very inspiring for me still and to be a part of it, is like giving back to the people who made it happen for me,” said Olds.

Five of the 38 cyclists on the team were present, all with varying connections to the pro cycling world. That includes Rukhsar Habibzai, who was evacuated from Afghanistan and came to the United States in late 2021.

“In Afghanistan, in my country, it’s very difficult for a girl to ride a bicycle, to do sports. But I see in America there is a lot of opportunity,” said Habibzai.

Overall, the VBR TWENTY24 team is excited to be able to share women’s cycling with people of all ages in the Roanoke Valley Community.

“It’s so exciting and so overwhelming of joy to see a bunch of people so intrigued into women’s cycling,” said team member, Lilly McLeod.

“I just think it’s really important to all young girls in any sport to know that they can make a name for themselves,” said team member, Jessica Hall.

“I’m very excited for the future and what it holds. I’m grateful and honored to be on this team,” said team member, Maize Wimbush.

“It’s kind of cool to come over here and see Virginia is putting in the work, and Blue Ridge putting in the work to shine a light on females,” said team member, Isabella Robusto.

The team will get its first taste of the Roanoke Valley during a training camp in March and shift its focus entirely to the area in the summer.

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