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Prominent women's team loses sponsor
The end of the Olympic cycle appears to be the end of one of cycling's most prominent women's teams - the AA Drink-Leontien.nl squad is reported to be stopping at the end of the season.
Wielerland.nl today reported that riders and support staff have been informed this week by team manager Michael Zijlaard that AA Drink has decided not to extend its sponsorship and that the organisation has opted to disband rather than launch a new search for funds.
The team provided a haven for riders left looking for work at the termination of Garmin's women's program: Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Armitstead, former world time trial champion Emma Pooley, Olympians Shelley Olds, Kirsten Wild and Willy Kanis and British champion Sharon Laws are among those affected by the cessation of the team.
Women's cycling has historically been affected by the Olympic cycle: with the only coverage of the sport in the main stream press coming every four years, most of the sponsorship comes ahead of the Games.
The number of women's teams registered with the UCI reached a seven year peak in 2012, with 49 professional teams licensed. Statistics on the UCI's website show only 25 registered in the year after the Athens Olympic Games. That swelled to 42 in the year leading up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and levelled off between 37 and 41 from 2008 to 2011.
Several riders have criticized the UCI for not doing more for women's cycling, which is run under rules similar to the lowest tier of professional men's cycling. Pooley called for more representation and support from the sport's governing body earlier this year after securing her place with AA Drink.