The Movistar team is working towards creating a UCI-ranked women's team for either 2018 or 2019, team director Eusebio Unzué has confirmed. Speaking to the Cycling Podcast at the Vuelta a España, Unzué said that they had been making plans for a women's squad for some time but needed to get to know the sport better.
The men's Movistar team has been a part of the peloton since 1980, with the telephonic company its title sponsor since 2011. If the project works out, the team will join Team Sunweb, Lotto-Soudal, Orica-Scott, FDJ and Astana as WorldTour outfits with both men's and women's squads.
"We have been working on this for a couple of years, and this is a step forward that we were bound to make at some point as women's sport keeps growing," said Unzué. "At the moment, we are getting to know women's cycling. It is too soon to confirm anything just yet. We will see if the project takes off this year or the next one."
The project could be officially announced as soon as the end of the Vuelta.
Hints of Unzué's intentions could be seen at the national championships earlier this year when the Movistar boss followed the women's race in a car with team coach Jorge Sanz, a former sports director at the Spanish Lointek team. Spanish website Zikloland reports that the team is likely to be made up of 12 to 14 riders with a predominantly Spanish focus. However, foreign riders are expected to be signed up, too.
Spain already has two long-standing teams in the women's peloton with Bizkaia-Durango, which has had UCI status since 2004, and Lointek, which was created in 2009. Spain is currently ranked 15th in the UCI nations standings with the 23-year-old Giro Rosa stage winner Sheyla Gutierrez their best ranked rider.