Former International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson has announced plans to launch a Women’s WorldTour team and is seeking corporate backing for the venture.
Cookson (pictured) has spelled out his plans to remain in cycling after losing the UCI presidency in September. European Cycling Union (UEC) president David Lappartient ousted Cookson as UCI president with a decisive victory by 37 votes to eight. In a post on his official website, Cookson said he has since been weighing up his options and is now keen to tap into what he sees as a big opportunity through the growth of women’s cycling.
He stated: “My intention is that this should begin with the establishing of a UCI Women’s WorldTour team for 2019 – a team that will meet or exceed the new high standards that are likely to be put in place by the UCI for the new two-tier structure for women’s teams that was developed during my term as UCI president.
“I am not just talking about a top-level team in the traditional sense. There has never been so much interest in women’s sport, fitness and health generally, and this is clearly reflected in the interest in women’s cycling, not just at the elite level, but in terms of general participation.”
The Women’s WorldTour will enter its third season in 2018. Cookson, a Brit, said the new team would be based in the UK but would include riders from across the world. The 66-year-old added that he has received some “real initial interest” in the proposal and is now calling on support from the corporate sector.
Cookson said: “It seems to me that we are at a moment of real opportunity for women’s cycling. We are at a pivotal point, a sea-change in attitude towards women’s sport in the media and amongst the public is taking place, and we should seize this opportunity.
“I believe that there are companies out there that could benefit tremendously from linking their brand to the sport and pastime of cycling – using the inspirational power of elite sport to encourage more women and girls to take up cycling for the health and environmental benefits that it can bring to so many people, right around the world.”
He added: “I am putting this idea out there because I want to stimulate the decision-makers in those companies, many of whom (men and women) enjoy cycling themselves, to start to think about the possibilities.
“The potential return on their investment could be very substantial, but I want to make it clear that it will need innovation, creativity, and a major effort from their side to make that happen. I am not looking for a company to simply underwrite the team, I am looking for partners who want to invest in an initiative that will make a real difference to people’s lives, potentially right around the world.”
Cookson said he could also envision the team growing to include a men’s WorldTour squad in future years.