The Canyon-SRAM Women's WorldTour squad announced it would form a new development team in 2022 as part of its long-term diversity and inclusion program. The eight-rider team will be a feeder squad for the WorldTeam and recruitment for the development programme will be focussed on "but not limited to" Africa, Asia and South America, according to the team's press release.
The development squad is a first for a European Women's WorldTour organisation, some of which - like Jumbo-Visma, Team DSM, Trek-Segafredo, Movistar Team and BikeExchange are instead part of larger men's WorldTour teams.
The team is expected to be registered as a UCI Continental team with eight riders being given access to individual coaching, mentorship, a racing programme and trainee rides with the Canyon-SRAM WorldTeam.
"Since the beginning of Canyon-SRAM Racing we were always motivated to create opportunities for women from all over the globe to enter the sport of professional women's cycling," manager and founder Ronny Lauke said.
"Diversity and inclusion require a long-term commitment. We have set ourselves ambitious goals and we are ready to drive this forward with all our strength to not only make Canyon-SRAM Racing a more diverse and inclusive team, but also to make the sport of cycling a truly diverse and inclusive sport.
"The development team will officially start on 1 January, 2022 though we have already been working hard on this project for several months. From 2023, we aim that one rider per year from the Canyon-SRAM Racing development team makes the step into a UCI Women's WorldTeam, including but not limited to Canyon-SRAM Racing."
The pathway to the team is in addition to the recruitment from the Zwift Racing Academy, which was started in 2016 with an aim at identifying unknown talents. Neve Bradbury, Jess Pratt, Tanja Erath, Ella Harris and Leah Thorvilson were all given racing opportunities through the programme.
"We have understood that we need to do more and are excited to be able to present the Canyon-SRAM Racing development team," Lauke said. "With this team, we are opening another unique pathway that talents from countries that are underrepresented in the women's peloton can use and receive full support on a daily basis. We are very much looking forward to this new chapter and are confident that our impact and help to lower entry barriers and to give the sport a change will motivate many more women to enter the beautiful sport of cycling."
The focus on diversity and inclusion came during the social justice movements of 2020 and accelerated with the signing of Chloé Dygert, who sparked controversy with social media activity that appeared to support racist and transphobic sentiments.
The team hired consultant Christine Kalkschmid to start a Diversity and Inclusion programme and the development team is designed to support these efforts.
"We want to make an impact to the sport of cycling," Kalkschmid said. "Cycling in general and professional women's cycling, in particular, is not accessible for many women around the world. Our goal is to make the sport diverse and inclusive by developing and fostering promising talents that currently have no or only limited access to cycling."
The announcement highlighted that the programme was "strengthened commitment and financial contribution from the team's co-title partner, Canyon Bicycles" who extending their support through the end of 2023.
Canyon Bicycles also have supported the first collegiate cycling programme at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) at St Augustine's University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Canyon Bicycles founder Roman Arnold said that the support of professional teams and athletes drives the development of their bicycles, "but we do it out of our love for the sport and a desire to bring new fans and riders in, from all backgrounds," Arnold said.
"Making it as a professional cyclist is never easy, and it's almost impossible for riders who don't have access to the support networks they need. Through the Canyon-SRAM development program, we look to help change that by identifying and nourishing new female racing talent to achieve its full potential from across the globe. I cannot wait to see what they achieve."
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