Former UCI president Brian Cookson is planning to develop a professional women's team by 2019. The 66-year-old Briton, who lost his bid for re-election to the top post at cycling's governing body to David Lappartient in September, announced his intentions in a statement released on Sunday.
"After a number of weeks considering my future, I have decided that I am not quite ready to disappear altogether from the world of cycling," Cookson said in his statement.
"Over the next few months, I am going to be exploring the possibilities of setting up a new professional cycling team structure," he said. "My intention is that this should begin with the establishing of a UCI Women's WorldTour Team for 2019 – a team that will meet or exceed the new high standards that are likely to be put in place by the UCI for the new two-tier structure for Women's Teams that was developed during my term as UCI President.
"I am not just talking about a top-level team in the traditional sense. There has never been so much interest in women's sport, fitness and health generally, and this is clearly reflected in the interest in women's cycling, not just at the elite level, but in terms of general participation. It seems to me that we are at a moment of real opportunity for women's cycling. We are at a pivotal point, a sea-change in attitude towards women's sport in the media and amongst the public is taking place, and we should seize this opportunity."
The Women's WorldTour, headed for its third season in 2018, replaced the smaller women's World Cup series in 2015, during Cookson's tenure as UCI president.
Cookson intends for his team to be based in the United Kingdom, but will look to build an international line-up. He stressed that the plan is currently in its infancy, with the challenge of finding sponsors still to be tackled.
"I am putting this idea out there because I want to stimulate the decision-makers in those companies, many of whom (men and women) enjoy cycling themselves, to start to think about the possibilities," he said. "The potential return on their investment could be very substantial, but I want to make it clear that it will need innovation, creativity, and a major effort from their side to make that happen."
Should Cookson's project succeed, he may look to expand onto the men's side.
In addition to his planned development of a pro women's team, Cookson also announced his intent to document his experiences in cycling in a book.
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