Former president of the UCI, Brian Cookson, has announced plans to set up a new international women’s cycling team based in Lancashire. Perhaps with one eye on developments east of the Pennines, he expressed his hope that the move might lead to a cycling boom in the county.
“To create a Lancashire based women’s cycle team that’s the best in the world would be a fantastic flagship for sport in Lancashire,” said Cookson. “The move would not only put Lancashire firmly on the cycling map but could revolutionise women’s cycling.”
He told the Lancashire Evening Post that he is looking to raise five to seven million pounds a year through sponsorship, and said of the riders: “They will be paid properly. In most cases women are riding in effect as amateurs. Very few make a living out of it. We want to raise the bar in every sense and make sure the team are resourced with the right coaching, the right medical support. I think there’s a sea change in attitudes to women’s sport.”
Elaborating on the possible local impact, he said: “The team would be based in Lancashire administratively and corporately, but it will be an international team. I’m hoping UCLan will get involved as they’ve a great sports department and a great materials and technology department that can help with equipment and bikes.”
He added: “Maybe we should use some of the expertise developed for the defence industry for a beneficial activity and industry that can improve the health of citizens of this area and the rest of world as well.”
County councillor David Whipp cited Barnoldswick’s Hope Technology as an example of this.
“The Hope success has built on expertise built up in the aerospace industry,” he said. “We’ve two very different types of transport where they are using the same skills, the same technologies to create these top quality cycling components. The same technologies are used for the manufacture of cutting edge jet engines by companies like Rolls Royce.”
As well as manufacturing parts, the company provides occasional training sessions through its Hope Academy scheme and has long-term plans to build a velodrome.
Lancashire County Council will next month consider a new strategy aiming to double the number of people cycling in the county.