Online retailer Wiggle has been announced as co-sponsor of the women’s cycling team backed by Tour de France and Olympic time trial champion, Bradley Wiggins. The team, announced last month as DTPC Honda Pro Cycling, will race in 2013 as Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling in a striking orange and black kit, also unveiled today. Contrary to what was stated when the team was revealed last month, they will ride Colnago bikes, not rival Italian brand Pinarello.
Team manager and owner Rochelle Gilmore, who is also on the riders’ roster and is reigning Commonwealth road race champion, said that the three-year deal would enable the new outfit to go some way towards redressing the huge imparity between salaries offered to women riders and what their male counterparts can earn.
“Women have traditionally ridden for contracts as little as one-tenth of what the men earn,” explained the 30-year-old Australian.
“If you want to get the best out of an athlete you need to provide them with what they need—and all too often funding shortfalls mean women cyclists are not provided what they need.
“Our team philosophy is all about the athletes. The deal with Wiggle.co.uk enables us to provide better salaries and the supportive environment our athletes deserve and need so they can reach their full potential.”
The team blends experience – besides Gilmore, riders include two-time world road champion Giorgia Bronzini – with youth, Great Britain’s world and Olympic champion pursuit trio of Dani King, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott being the pick of the young talent.
Wiggle, valued at £180 million when it was sold in December last year, continues to go from strength to strength, clocking up sales of £118.6 million in its latest financial year with impressive sales growth of 53 per cent over the previous 12 months.
During 2011, some £50 million of sales were generated overseas, with international sales growing at nearly 300 per cent year-on-year. Sponsorship of the team is certain to raise its profile internationally.
Chief Executive Humphrey Cobbold said: “Wiggle is all about providing the best.
“It’s a privilege to support Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling. We look forward to playing a pivotal role in supporting this tremendous group of athletes and hope that our partnership will motivate future female cycling champions the world over.”
Besides its name appearing on the jersey, Wiggle will also be supplying it via its dhb brand, as part of a full range of kit that will also comprise luggage.
Adam Ryan, Wiggle’s head of brand marketing, explained: “The development team for the dhb brand and I are excited to be working so closely with these incredible athletes to ensure we are producing the best possible apparel to suit their needs.
“We expect to learn from their experiences at competing and winning at the highest level in professional cycling to help improve our dhb customer offering even further from its already well-established position as one of the world’s leading cycling apparel brands.”
Laura Trott, winner of two golds at London 2012 – besides the team pursuit, she also won the omnium, commented: “We are very privileged to have the support of Wiggle – a global project which has the aspiration to raise the professionalism of women’s cycling.”
Fellow Team GB gold medalist Bradley Wiggins, who is supporting the team through his Bradley Wiggins Foundation, said: “I have personally been a Wiggle customer for years and look forward to working closely with the team to ensure that the athletes are well looked after throughout the season.”
The launch of the team with its high-profile roster of riders and sponsors is undoubtedly good news for the women’s side of the sport on the road, which all too often faces struggles to attract sponsorship and media coverage.
It also comes just a week after it was revealed that its highest profile stage race, the Giro Donne, faces an uncertain future after the organisers of the last three editions of the race, which was first run in 1988 and after a break in 1992 and 1993 has featured in the calendar for each of the past 20 years, decided to end their involvement after the expiry this year of their agreement with the Italian cycling federation, which owns the race.
Sara Brambilla of the company concerned, Epinike, told the Dutch website WeilerRevue: “We’ve had a very positive experience, but now we’re concentrating on other things. The feeling is that we’ve had some really lovely Giri in the past few years, but they’ve been a bit hard for all of the girls.”
Even if a successor to Epinike can be found, Italian website Cicloweb reports that chances are very slim that next year’s edition, scheduled for 28 June to 7 July, can be held, adding that the race’s future is likely to depend on the outcome of elections to the presidency of the Italian cycling federation in January.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.