Former UCI President Brian Cookson has partnered with University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and BeaconFell Limited to form an elite women's cycling team in 2019. The team is expected to compete on the UCI Women's WorldTour, according to a press release.
"There has never been a better moment for an initiative like this," Cookson said. "Over the last couple of years, the public have begun to show a real and hugely increased interest in women's sport of all kinds."
Although partnerships are forming and the team is being developed, there is still a major sponsorship opportunity available, with the naming rights for the team still to be taken, as noted in the press release.
"Our ambitious plan is that this will not just become the best Women's Team in cycling, but that it will be a powerful tool for change in sport and in society - with a global roster of top women cyclists, the team will work with funders and sponsors to raise awareness of women's health and fitness issues, in ways appropriate to each society's culture, economy, and opportunities."
At that time, he said that he was not ready to disappear from cycling and was in the midst of setting up a structure for a women's professional team at the UCI Women's WorldTour level. He also said that the team would meet or exceed new high standards that were likely to be put in place by the UCI for a new two-tier structure for Women's Teams, which he said was developed during his term as UCI President.
Although there has been discussion of a tiered system in women's cycling, currently, there is no such system in place. There are 46 UCI Women's Teams this year and the top 15 are invited to compete in the 23-event Women's WorldTour, and they are allowed to decline.
Organisers can then extend invitations to two national teams (one from the country hosting the event and one invitation to a foreign national team), and the remaining teams must be UCI Women's Teams.
UCLan, bicycle maker BeaconFell Limited and Cookson have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to cement the partnership. Cookson noted in the press release that discussions are underway with potential sponsors and suppliers of goods and services, and the major international NGO World Bicycle Relief will be the chosen charity partner of the team.
UCLan will support development in a range of areas including fitness testing, coaching, nutrition support, physiotherapy and medical assessments.
"At the same time, cycling as a sport, pastime, and means of transport has never been more popular and has never been higher on the agenda of governments and public authorities around the world. The health and environmental benefits of cycling are evident and continue to attract investment all around the world, as part of society's efforts to improve the quality of life for everyone," Cookson said.
"Getting more women on bikes is a key element of this, and the inspirational power of elite sports, with the role models it offers to women, is an important facet of the opportunity."
As for the title sponsorship vacancy, Cookson said that he is looking for a leading corporate partner to take the naming rights.
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