FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine-Futuroscope announced Wednesday that they will officially apply to become part of the Women's WorldTeams in 2020. The France-based programme is the third team to submit an application to what will be women's cycling's top-tier after Ale Cipollini and WNT-Rotor announced a similar move earlier this year.
"Since 2006, we aimed to professionalize women's cycling, in 2020 all of our workforce will be professional with a contract of employment against only 50% today. This is an important step that we will go through, which demonstrates the development of our structure," said team manager Stephen Delcourt in a post on Facebook.
"It is a chance to have at our side FDJ which has allowed us for three years to pass a course while respecting our historical sponsors. They continue to support us in our progression each season. For the years to come we will build a team to shine on all terrains while continuing to train our young French riders, to help them shine at the highest level."
Last year, the UCI announced that it would launch a two-tier team system - WorldTeams and Continental Teams - in 2020, as part of its women's cycling reforms. UCI President David Lappartient told Cyclingnews at the time that he hoped five teams would make up the top-tier in 2020, with a goal of bringing in 15 teams by 2023. He said he would welcome more than five teams in the first year but that they would have to be able to fulfill the new criteria set in place. The strict application criteria includes being able to afford to pay riders a minimum salary and other social insurances such as maternity leave, all part of the new self-employed standard contracts, along with heightened ethical standards. The reforms are an attempt by the UCI to improve the work-place environment in women's cycling and further professionalise the sport.
There was some pushback from teams that said the reforms were happening too fast and even some of the highest ranked teams said they might not be able to afford such stipulations based on a lack of sponsorship funding. However, with three teams already announcing their intent to become a WorldTeam, it would seem that the UCI will not struggle to meet its quota of five teams in the first year. Cyclingnews understands that there have been eight teams that have submitted applications.
FDJ, Ale Cipollini and WNT-Rotor are all among the top-15 ranked UCI Women's Teams this year. Other teams include Boels-Dolmans, Mitchelton-Scott, CCC-Liv, Trek-Segafredo, Sunweb and Canyon-SRAM, which have not announced their intent to become a WorldTeam.
Cyclingnews reached out to the teams and managers for their perspective on the reforms in December. Boels Dolmans manager Danny Stam felt that the reforms were happening too quickly for teams like his that are not connected to a WorldTour men's team. In the case of the newly formed Trek-Segafredo, the team told Cyclingnews that it could already afford to meet the UCI's heightened financial requirements.