Rapha have stepped up their involvement in women’s professional cycling by joining forces with the new Canyon//SRAM team for 2016. In a three-year partnership, Rapha will supply the new women’s WorldTour team with an elite clothing range.
The move comes after Rapha and Team Sky announced that they would part ways at the end of 2016.
“We’ve had a life long relationship with trying to get women on bikes. We’ve already had global women’s cycling events but the whole ethos with this was to just try and help women get out there, in a community and feeling confident while they ride their bikes,” Rapha's chief marketing officer Sarah Clark told Cyclingnews at the team’s launch at Rapha’s flagship store in London.
The new team has been formed from the ashes of the Velocio-SRAM squad, which folded this year. In 2016 the squad will ride bikes supplied by their title sponsors Canyon, who are also making their first venture into the top tier of women’s cycling. For Rapha though, this is a shift from the demands of Team Sky and into a new field and market. Clark believes that the company enters a new phase with a huge amount of understanding and experience after kitting out the likes of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, while there are still plans to work alongside Bradley Wiggins' team – WIGGINS.
“In parallel we’ve taken on the technical aspect with WIGGINS, Team Sky and this was just the right time for us to come into the women’s peloton and challenge ourselves and demonstrate all the learning we’ve built up on a technical side and merge that with what we know about women’s cycling,” she told Cyclingnews.
“We’re not a massive company and we can’t do endless things but we put a lot of time into Team Sky and we had a fantastic time. Both parties were very pleased with it. However, it’s time now to take those learnings and use them in a women’s team.”
The timing of working with a women’s squad could arguably not be better. The women’s side of the sport is stabilising and showing signs of growth. The sport’s governing body has unveiled a WorldTour and the depth in the top squads continues to improve.
“We’ve always wanted to do this at a time when we were committed and focused and Team Sky was a big and demanding team. We learnt a huge amount but we’ve felt that we’ve learnt enough now about women’s sizing, shape and needs. We want women to feel confident and comfortable on the bike. We didn’t want to come at this too early and do half a job. Team Sky took a proportion of effort from our team and now we want to bring that focus to this team. I hope that the girls on this team will be super demanding of us, just as we’ve wanted that from Team Sky riders.”