Team Illuminate principle Chris Johnson confirmed to Cyclingnews on Friday that the three-year-old US men's Continental team will expand in 2017 to include a women's UCI program. Johnson would not release roster details, but he did say the bulk of riders will come from the US.
"The majority of our roster is from the US, although we do have some international riders on the team," he said. "Honestly, we have put together an incredibly strong roster and I feel lucky to have such a great group of women to work with in our first year."
Although it competed this season in black, logo-free team kits as 'Illuminate,' Johnson's team entered the Continental ranks in 2014 as Airgas and added Safeway as a sponsor in 2015, when it featured 2013 Vuelta a Espana winner Chris Horner along with its young roster. Horner left for Lupus this season, but the new Illuminate incarnation added Colombian road champion Edwin Avila and Australian youngsters Callum and Miles Scotson. Illuminate raced sparingly in the US this season and internationally at Tour de Taiwan, Tour d'Azerbaïdjan, Tour of Iran and Tour of Qinghai Lake.
Johnson said adding a women's team was integral to the team's mission of spotlighting how cycling connects individuals, communities and cultures. "It is hard to do that if we’re not also including women," he said.
"When you look at our overall model, we’re really building a club that is led by the professional riders. We want people to join us, to follow the riders and to interact with the team. Our team is about bringing people together, and in order to do that we need to have a men’s and a women’s program."
The team's racing calendar will start in California, as the program is based in San Francisco.
"Getting an invite to the Tour of California is certainly a goal, and we have put together a roster of riders that can compete to win at that level," Johnson said. "After the California racing, we will head to the East Coast for a stint of racing in the early summer."
Johnson added that he has been “in communication” with international events and will continue to look into those opportunities.
Team Illuminate recently announced signing Swiss Rider Simon Pellaud for the men's team next season. The former IAM Cycling rider will join Avila and at least three other returning riders in 2017.