Women's cycling teams all over the world, from amateur to the top level professional teams, have struggled for survival by trying to emulate the same system that men's teams use with ample success, but a group in the UK is capitalizing on social media to create a fan-funded women's team to try and reverse that trend.
Stefan Wyman owns and manages the Matrix Fitness Prendas team, and came up with the idea after years of running women's teams and fighting for the meagre amount of sponsorship dollars available to women compared with men.
He wrote an online article about his ideas, and it was picked up and promoted by others. "This was an idea and not something I had planned to put in place at the moment," Wyman told Cyclingnews. "But now with over 200 people confirmed as backing it, it's not easy to ignore."
The fans who pledge will help to fund the Matrix Fitness Prendas team, a long established team in the UK which aims to build into a professional program by 2014, as well as the UK women's cycling community in general. The funds will be used to supplement those from sponsorship.
"We can't expect this project to give us the funds needed to build a professional team from the ground up. But it could give us the community backing we need to inspire more corporate sponsors to come on board," Wyman said.
"There is a lot of talk in the public domain about celebs backing women's cycling and it would be great to try to channel this into one place. We have big names who could transform the sport with words alone, like Brad Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton. But if everyone goes in different directions, we are not going to have the effect that is truly possible."
Wyman plans to use half of any funds generated to help the team, and the rest to go toward resources to get more women into the sport, for race organisers and other teams.
"We are determined this wouldn't help just our team, but the sport in general."
The project is well on its way to reaching its goal of reaching 500 backers, with a total funding target of £50,000.
For more information, go here.
Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.
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