The Cyclists' Alliance new mentor programme helps women navigate pro cycling careers

Women's peloton
Women's peloton (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA) has partnered with major bike brands Cannondale, Liv Cycling, Specialized, SRAM and Trek to launch TCAMP, a mentor program focused on three stages of professional cyclists’ careers with the ultimate goal of creating long-term change even after athletes retire.

The mentor program will focus on "three key pillars" in an athlete's career, with assistance beginning at the junior and under-23 phase, followed by the mid-career, and then help navigating post-career retirement from the sport.

TCA stated in a press release that TCAMP aims to connect elite riders directly with some of the most advanced businesses in the sport and fellow professional cyclists, through a structured mentoring programme designed to help them "effectively enter, flourish and progress as industry employees and leaders upon retirement from professional cycling."

Gracie Elvin, cofounder of the TCA and former professional cyclist, stated that the goal of TCAMP was to help guide more women into leadership and decision-making positions within the cycling industry. 

"To drive lasting change in the cycling industry and make it a more equitable place for women, we need more women in decision making positions. Too many professional cyclists want to take that step, but leave the cycling family due to not being effectively equipped or enabled. We want to change that," Elvin said.

"Through our Podium Partners we are able to offer access to industry-leading knowledge and open the door to opportunities; to empower our high-performing professional athletes and to give those brands the benefit of their immense knowledge in a mutually-beneficial arrangement that delivers long-term impact. 

"We are especially thankful to Cannondale, Liv Cycling, Specialized, SRAM and Trek for their vision, commitment and support in joining us on this journey.” 

TCAMP: Three key pillars

  • Pre-career - junior, U23 and out-of-contract cyclists will benefit from practical knowledge such as cycling CV tools, advice on how to approach teams and relocation factsheets - all developed in partnership with the partners - with the aim of democratizing entry into and diversifying the professional peloton.
  • Mid-career - inexperienced riders (mentees) will be partnered with established riders (mentors) for a structured 12-month, mentoring program, crafted in collaboration with the partner companies and external experts in order to learn how to better navigate challenges, develop leadership skills and share & retain knowledge.
  • Post-career - retired cyclists (within two years of leaving the sport) will benefit from access to formal internships and in-house experience at each of the Podium Partners. The pioneering program will provide retired cyclists with incredible opportunities and practical skills to ready them for life beyond the bike - whilst providing the brands with access to a pool of expert, high-performing talent.

Lauretta Hanson (Trek-Segafredo) acknowledged the importance of providing guidance to athletes coming into the sport and to those retiring from their athletic careers.

"I know we like to think we're blazing our own trail, but quite often someone has walked the path in front of us. When they turn around to guide us, it helps to make the path wider so more people can follow. This, coupled with the direct link to companies in cycling will make the new TCAMP a truly invaluable program for all female cyclists," Hanson said.

TCA has opened an application process for athletes to join TCAMP as either a mentee or a mentor, depending on their goals and stage of their career. In addition, the association aims to build its partner network for TCAMP, and businesses wishing to partner with the programme are welcome to contact TCA directly.

TCA has partnered with Cannondale, Liv Cycling, Specialized, SRAM and Trek - brands that the association calls Podium Partners.

"Opening a pathway for talented women with a passion for cycling is crucial for building greater gender equity within positions of influence. The TCAMP program is exactly the type of long-term initiative to create more access points across the cycling industry," said Kim Price, Leader of People and Culture at Specialized.

Brook Hopper, Liv Cycling global marketing manager, agreed and noted the importance of supporting female athletes through each stage of their careers.

"It is important to support women at every stage of their journey--from an on-ramp into the pro ranks, to an exit ramp that keeps them engaged with and working in the industry. The TCA mentor programme will be an incredible resource to make this possible."

TCA is a women's riders' association that has acquired a status as the de facto union for women's cycling because of the positive work it's done to develop women's cycling since it launched at the end of 2017.

Its 10-athlete Elected Rider Council currently includes Marianne Vos, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Christine Majerus, Ellen van Dijk, Amanda Spratt, Haley Smith, Agua Marina Espinola, Leah Kirchmann, Ariane Lüthi, and Marcella Toldi.

Its main initiatives include assisting female athletes with contract and educational support, career advice, legal and retirement assistance, and resources related to abuse in the sport. 

It has also created the Approved Agent Quality Standard that acts as a stamp of approval to officially recognise agents, and which builds on the existing Contract Management Platform. TCA has also appointed an ethics officer, Judith van Maanen, who is an experienced Legal Counsel, in an effort to better support riders who experience mistreatment and abuse within professional cycling.

Last February, TCA secured a grant from Rapha Foundation in the amount of $75,000 in funding. The association has a seven-point plan over four years to revolutionise the compensation and culture of professional women's cycling with a set of minimum standards.

TCA seven-point plan

  • All riders to earn a minimum salary
  • All riders to receive maternity leave (not just for WWT riders)
  • All racing and training expenses covered  
  • Paid vacation days and a mandatory minimum vacation block 
  • All support team members to be qualified, checked and professional
  • All riders to receive life insurance, permanent total disability insurance and repatriation insurance as standard
  • A universal standardised approach to race safety

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