The UCI has confirmed eight returning teams that have applied to register as Women's WorldTeams. SD Worx – currently known as Boels Dolmans – is the only new team that has applied for both a licence and registration, bringing the total number of top-tier teams to nine in 2021.
Women's professional cycling underwent reforms that were implemented at the beginning of the 2020 season. Part of those reforms included the introduction of a new two-tier team system – WorldTeams and Continental Teams.
WorldTeam licences come with heightened financial requirements, which includes paying riders a minimum salary, and providing health and social benefits.
Last year, a maximum of eight teams were granted top-tier licences: Alè BTC Ljubljana, Canyon-Sram, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, Mitchelton-Scott, CCC-Liv, Movistar Team Women, Team Sunweb and Trek-Segafredo.
Boels Dolmans had been ranked the number one team in the world for five consecutive seasons, however, they did not meet the full range of requirements to secure a WorldTeam licence after reaching the end of their contracts with title sponsors Boels Rental and Dolmans Landscaping.
The team successfully found a long-term replacement sponsor in SD Worx that will take the team through 2024, and which fulfilled the financial requirements of moving up to a WorldTeam licence next year.
The UCI has set out annual goals for the two-tier teams system, aiming to add new teams to the highest level each season. Licences awarded between 2020 and 2023 are valid for decreasing periods of time - validity of four years for those issued in 2020, and then three years in 2021, and two years in 2022.
Eight teams made up the top-tier in 2020, a maximum of 12 licences were available for 2021 and a maximum of 15 available for 2022.
From 2024 and onward, according to the UCI website, the duration of licences will then be determined by the UCI Women’s WorldTeams ranking: validity of four years for the top five teams in the ranking, three years for the teams ranked 6 to 10, and two years for the teams ranked 11 to 15.
Notable name changes among the applicants are CCC-Liv, which is changing to Liv Racing, and Mitchelton-Scott, which is changing to Greenedge Cycling, the name of the team's management company.
CCC-Liv released a statement following the UCI's teams announcement saying, "CCC will no longer be a head sponsor next season, but will remain involved as a partner."
The Polish footwear company CCC decided to end its sponsorship of the men’s WorldTour team at the end of this year after being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts.
Although a spokesperson for the women’s team reiterated that the two teams are separate entities and under different contract agreements with CCC, it now appears that the company will not remain as a title sponsor of the women's team either. The team has always been clear that it aimed to continue in the sport at the highest level.
Women's WorldTour applicants for 2021
Team SD Worx
Alè BTC Ljubljana Cipollini
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope
Movistar Team Women
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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.
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