Soon-to-launch women’s team Uno-X is among the multiple teams aiming to secure one of the coveted new licences that will allow them to race as a Women’s WorldTeam in 2022.
In an interview with Cyclingnews, General Manager and CEO of Uno-X Jens Haugland has committed to offering his riders a proven organisation, minimum salaries set at or above the men’s ProTeam, and a vision of longterm success at the highest level of women’s cycling.
“I hope it’s not only about the money, but we also have a good package and structure around the team,” Haugland said when asked what he offered the athletes that he has successfully recruited to a new programme.
“We have a good leader in Lars Bak. It’s also an opportunity for experienced riders to get a fresh start. Perhaps they have been a bit stuck in their roles and now they are ready to commit to another role, and we can offer that opportunity.
“We are known for being a good organisation and for taking care of our staff and our riders on the men’s ProTeam. I’ve been open about the fact that our minimum wage is the same between the men and the women – there is no difference. Some of our female riders are also paid higher than our minimum wage and that works the same basis as our men’s team.”
Uno-X has had steady progress in cycling over the last five seasons. The Scandinavian-based fuel and energy brand created a men’s Continental team in 2017 and upgraded it to a second-tier ProTeam licence in 2020. Haugland, who is also the CEO of the Uno-X Norway, announced his intent to launch a women's programme for the first time next season.
“The team has been maturing. We have an organisation and a structure in place and we know how to run this team now,” Haugland said. “I don’t think you can operate in the world of cycling without a women’s team, especially in Scandinavia, so it was an obvious decision for us. We had a meeting in Norway last summer and we decided to move forward with broadcasting it a few days later and we’ve been working quite extensively since that point onward.”
There will be space for 15 WorldTeams in 2022, so in addition to the existing nine top-tier teams, there is space for six more. Teams that have expressed an interest in applying for a top-tier team licence are existing Continental teams Jumbo-Visma, Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank and Rally Cycling.
Uno-X and Cofidis are set to launch for the first time in 2022, and unlike in previous years, they are now permitted to apply for a top-tier licence upon their foundation due to the new amendment to Article 2.013.034 bis. New teams aiming to jump straight up to the WorldTour will still need to fulfil the four main requirements: financial, ethical, administrative, and organisational.
“It’s no secret that I’ve been pushing very hard for this women’s team. We need to accelerate the top-tier for the women, and with nine teams this year, it should be a potential to add more teams if they can meet all the criteria,” Haugland said.
“We’ve been operating our pro men’s team for two years now with no negative remarks, so why on earth should we not be allowed to apply for a Women’s WorldTour licence for the women if we meet all the criteria. I’m happy that there was the amendment made in June, regarding this point.”
A 12-rider roster
The team has hired Lars Bak to manage the programme and is looking to hire coaching staff, nutritionists and sport psychologists, along with a 12-rider roster.
Uno-X has already announced the signing of Hannah Barnes and Hannah Ludwig, both currently racing with Canyon-SRAM, along with Susanne Andersen from Team DSM, Joscelin Lowden (Drops), and Anne Dorthe Ysland, Amalie Lutro and Mie Bjørndal Ottestad, all from Norway, Anniina Ahtosalo from Finland, and Rebecca Koerner from Denmark.
“We don’t want to be too big too early. We need to do this with some control in coaching and structure-wise. I would like to mainly run a one-race programme, so no dual programmes, and at the moment we are aiming for 12 riders, two full-time coaches, one nutrition coach and two directors,” Haugland said.
“After that we will look to expand. We have a good balance between experience and the next generation of riders. I’m really proud of what we have put together.”
The new women’s programme will be part of the same organisation, structure and management as the ProTeam. Haugland stated that the team is not based on a sponsorship model but rather a project build straight into the marketing and branding of Uno-X.
“It’s completely integrated into our process of creating brand awareness and knowledge. We know that we cannot live off of the fuel that we are selling today in the future, we love cycling and we think it’s a very controllable marketing project,” Haugland said.
“We can control what we want to look like and what we want our philosophy to be, we can control all this in cycling. We are a Scandinavian brand and so cycling offers us a great advantage. The decisions we make are up to us and it’s a great way to be consistently branding over a long period of time.”
Equal wages the only way
The UCI stipulates the required minimum salaries with the base amount for the Women’s WorldTour currently set at €20,000 (employed). Whereas men’s ProTeams base wage is €32,102 (employed) and men's WorldTour teams are obliged to pay their riders a base wage of €40,045 (employed). As a Scandinavian brand, Haugland said he never thought twice about paying the female and male riders the same minimum salary.
“It’s not a decision. I run a business in Norway, a country where we don’t pay based on gender. Women are just as professional as the men, and you can discuss market value and so on and so on, but for us, it’s the only way to pay our riders,” Haugland said.
“I would end up in a lot of trouble if I paid our riders differently [based on gender] because that does not make sense. I am proud of it, but at the same time, paying men and women the same minimum wage should be obvious, in my mind.
“Also, if one of our riders becomes pregnant, we will respect her contract. We do not fire people in our business because they get pregnant. We will do exactly the same for our riders and this is a natural and obvious thing to do, even when we decided to create the team.”
Haugland said the team will aim to race in the top races in 2022 but the most important achievement will be to nurture a professional programme and good sportsmanship.
“We will be known for racing with a big smile, and being polite, while also aggressive in our racing style, and taking care of the younger generations. We are a young team and we will have good days and bad days but I have riders who will be great,” Haugland said.
“We will focus on the big races and we would like to perform in the women’s Tour de France, so it’s a goal to participate there, it’s the first year and the most important thing is to operate as a professional and well-founded programme with a focus on the longterm.”
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