The women's Bigla-Katusha team have been saved from financial difficulty thanks to French clothing brand Paule Ka coming on board as main sponsor until the end of 2024.
In April, Bigla informed the team that they wished to withdraw 100 per cent of funding, with the Katusha clothing brand also temporarily struggling to pay sponsorship money citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its business.
Subsequently, the team launched a crowdfunding appeal and accessed their UCI bank guarantee in order to pay rider and staff wages for April. Katusha Sports also announced that profits from team kit sales would go to the team.
The arrival of Paule Ka appears to have secured the long-term future of the team.
"We are very excited to welcome Paule Ka as the new main partner of our team. This will be the first time that a fashion house will enter into women’s cycling, and as such, this is a ground-breaking event," team CEO Priska Doppmann Campana said when announcing the news.
Women's racing has been rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is due to start in mid-August, with the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile and many of the biggest one-day Classics all on the new race calendar confirmed by the UCI.
"It will provide our sport with a platform to showcase the beauty of cycling in a unique and modern way," Campana said. "With this partnership, the team will also be opening a new chapter. We are seeking a WorldTour license, and will be developing a masterclass project, in which we will be able to keep furthering the potential of the athletes that have gone through our development program.
"Overall, this is a good day not just for our team, but also for women’s cycling in general, and we are pleased that this venture will open up several new opportunities for our sport."
Paule Ka is a high-end ready-to-wear clothing brand that was created in 1987 by designer Serge Cajfinger. It has 30 stores worldwide and a strong online presence. The team said Paule Ka plans to expand its reach to a younger audience with the launch of a new line named 'Mademoiselle by Paule Ka' in early 2021.
"We are happy to support the team and its talented women in their pursuit of athletic achievements. Paule Ka, as a timeless yet modern brand, matches the Équipe’s continuity and dynamism as a competitor in the peloton." Matthias Thoma, the owner of Paule Ka, said in a statement from the team.
Bigla-Katusha began the 2020 campaign with a brace of stage wins at the Setmana Ciclistica Valenciana through Emma Cecilie Norsgaard and Leah Thomas, while Norsgaard also placed third at Omloop van het Hageland. The team's 13-rider roster includes Swiss rider Elise Chabbey, who recently graduated from medical school and volunteered to work at Geneva University Hospital during the pandemic following the suspension of the cycling season.
"At the beginning of the 2020 season, the team announced itself as a force to be reckoned with in the peloton. In only 10 days of racing, it took no less than four wins and 18 top-10s in stages and races combined," the team said.
"We look forward to rewarding the trust and enthusiasm of Paule Ka, by not only continuing these formidable results, but also by embracing the daring and exciting racing style for which we have become renowned in the peloton."
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