Plans to create a new top-level international Women’s cycling team for 2019 onwards have taken a major step forward today, with the announcement of the founding partnership at the heart of the project.
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has formed a partnership with former Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and British Cycling President Brian Cookson and innovative Lancashire cycling company BeaconFell Limited to establish and run the team.
It will participate in the UCI Women’s WorldTour, a global series of events covering more than 20 races in 10 countries over three continents, each year.
Discussions are already underway with potential sponsors and suppliers of goods and services, and the major international NGO World Bicycle Relief will be the chosen charity partner of the team. UCLan will support development in a range of areas including fitness testing, coaching, nutrition support, physiotherapy and medical assessments.
For the right company, a major sponsorship opportunity is available, with the naming rights for the team still to be taken.
Brian Cookson said: “There has never been a better moment for an initiative like this. Over the last couple of years, the public have begun to show a real and hugely increased interest in women’s sport of all kinds.
“At the same time, cycling as a sport, pastime, and means of transport has never been more popular and has never been higher on the agenda of governments and public authorities around the world. The health and environmental benefits of cycling are evident and continue to attract investment all around the world, as part of society’s efforts to improve the quality of life for everyone.
“Getting more women on bikes is a key element of this, and the inspirational power of elite sports, with the role models it offers to women, is an important facet of the opportunity.
“The plan is that this will not just be the best Women’s Team in cycling, but that it will be a powerful tool for change in sport and in society – with a global roster of top women cyclists, the team will work with funders and sponsors to raise awareness of women’s health and fitness issues, in ways appropriate to each society’s culture, economy, and opportunities.”
All three parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to cement the partnership.
UCLan Deputy Vice-Chancellor Liz Bromley commented: “The University has a strong track record of working with elite athletes and with women’s cycling experiencing a surge in popularity, there is no better time for us to get involved in this exciting venture with Brian Cookson and BeaconFell Limited.
“We have a wide range of expertise for the cyclists to tap into, including support with nutrition, strength and conditioning and regular fitness tests as well as helping to promote the team through marketing, business planning and media coverage. It’s fantastic to see an increase in the number of women cycling competitively and creating role models for the future. The UCI and British Cycling have both committed to closing the gender gap in cycling and we are delighted to play a small part in this.”
Darrin Robinson, BeaconFell Limited CEO, said: “The reach of the UCI’s new Women’s WorldTour will touch audiences across the planet, including Europe, North America and the Far East.
“We want to see our women’s team racing, and hopefully in time winning, at the highest level in the world but just as importantly, we want to create the global sporting stars of the future. Our team will share the highs and lows of a truly brilliant sport and allow spectators and our team’s fans to join us, along with our sponsors and partners, on this journey.
“At Beacon we’re already working on new bikes, using ground breaking materials and manufacturing techniques to create some of the most beautiful and effective bikes on the road. We are now looking for a global long term partner, who is equally excited to join us.”
Ruth-Anne Renaud, Director of Global Marketing at World Bicycle Relief, said: “Through World Bicycle Relief’s work to provide bicycles to people in developing countries we have found the bicycle to be a major source of empowerment for girls and women, allowing them to overcome barriers and change their lives.
“As a charity partner to this new women’s WorldTour team, we can’t wait to watch the power of the bicycle come to life through the team’s powerful female athletes.”
Brian Cookson added: “What is needed now is a leading corporate partner to take the naming rights. In professional cycling, the teams are named after the lead sponsor.
“This partner will probably be from outside the cycling industry – a company whose products, marketing and corporate social agenda can benefit from a high profile involvement in women’s sport, specifically the best women’s cycle racing team in the world.
“A company that can use the role models and the inspirational power of the team’s success to boost and buttress their own image and thus their products or services.
“A company that understands women’s needs and potential, and their role in societies around the world, specifically in relation to health, environment, and transport.
“I invite that company to contact me now, so that we can plan for the launch of the team as a UCI Women’s WorldTour team for the 2019 season and beyond.”