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Linda Jackson: EF Education First showed conviction in wanting to support women's cycling

EF Education First
EF Education First (Image credit: Getty Images)

EF Education First has had a long-time goal of supporting a women's professional cycling team and they have found the perfect fit with the already established TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank. The successful American outfit has applied for a coveted Women's WorldTour licence that will see them race as EF Education-TIBCO-SVB in 2022.

In an interview with Cyclingnews, former Canadian pro cyclist and team owner Linda Jackson said that EF Education First stood out among the other potential co-partners because it showed a firm belief in supporting women, particularly when it comes to salaries.

"This is an important step. EF Education First are an incredible company and they really believe in supporting women, which was very important to me. I spoke with other partners that didn’t seem to have the same conviction, it was more about being politically correct, but this company really believes in supporting women," Jackson told Cyclingnews.

"They were emphatic about our riders earning the men’s WorldTour minimum salary so that they can focus on their jobs, and not have to work a second or third job to support themselves. It was a great fit."

The UCI stipulates the minimum salaries for the Women’s WorldTour at €20,000 (employed), whereas men's WorldTour teams are obliged to pay a base salary of €40,045 (employed). 

There is currently no minimum salary requirement for women's Continental teams but Jackson says she has always paid her riders a wage. With the support of EF Education First, however, she said all her riders will be able to focus on cycling as a full-time career.

"When I look back, even several years ago, we always paid our riders well, as a Continental team. These salaries, except for a few athletes, really weren’t enough to allow the women to really focus on their jobs full-time. It is a job," Jackson said.

"Women who, historically, have come to this sport out of passion and have sacrificed a lot to be able to race their bikes, now with EF joining us, we can offer them a salary so they don’t have to work a second job. They can focus 100 per cent on cycling. It’s incredibly fulfilling."

EF Education First also owns and title sponsors the men's WorldTour team EF Education-Nippo, however, Jackson confirmed the two programmes are separate and that the company is coming on board as a third co-partner alongside TIBCO and Silicon Valley Bank.

She also confirmed, however, that the two teams will share a marketing platform along with sponsors Rapha, POC, Whoop, and Cannondale, a bike brand that was already a partner of the women's team.

"[EF Education First] are coming on as one of our co-title partners, there is no ownership at all, it’s a co-title sponsorship position. We are completely separate from the men’s team," Jackson said.

"We have three [title] partners and they all share in the total resources. TIBCO and Silicon Valley Bank doubled their partnership to go to the Women’s WorldTour. One option was to go to the top level with these two partners alone. But with EF Education First, they provide the additional resources that lets us do it well, and allows us to pay our riders the men’s minimum WorldTour salaries, so that our riders can be 100 per cent focused. They are all contributing in a big way to the total sponsorships."

Jackson said that the team will be mainly focused on competing on the Women's WorldTour but that they will also continue with gravel and alternative racing, along with having a presence at select events in North America. They expect to announce the full roster in the coming weeks.

"Next year, we will have a mix of development riders and seasoned riders. We will do a lot of the Women’s WorldTour and also stay true to North American racing where we can. Our goals will be to be a top-5 team on the Women’s WordTour over the next several years. I’ll continue my philosophy of looking for that diamond in the ruff who can be developed into the next superstar."

The team will also make the Tour de France Femmes a special target in July, as an event that Jackson sees as a big step forward in women's cycling.

"To have this race back now is perfect timing. I really think that the success of women’s Tour de France will dictate where women’s cycling goes in the next three to five years," she said.

"I’m anticipating an incredibly successful event that will showcase the riders, their personalities, and really help grow the sport. It’s amazing to be involved with a women’s team right now. I wouldn’t miss it for the world."

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.