Is this the future of women’s cycling?
Based on the enthusiasm clearly evident at the launch of the exciting new Wiggle Honda Women’s Pro Cycling Team, held today at the Millbank Tower in central London in front of the UK media, you’d be forgiven for thinking so.
It’s early days, but there’s been much excitement since details were first revealed about this new gathering of the best women racing cyclists in the world right now. With a squad of 14 women that reads like a who’s who of women racers, including Dani King, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott, the undisputed queens of the track at the Olympics last summer, there’s a real depth of talent running right through the team. They’re going to be an unstoppable force on the road this season, that much is clear.
The team is the work of reigning Commonwealth road race champion Rochelle Gilmore, who owns and manages the team. All that and she will be racing too. She describes bringing together what some are calling the ‘dream team’ as a labour of love for the past four years. “It’s been a lot of hard work to get to this point,” she says, “but really the hard work is to be done on the road this season, to achieve what we’ve set out to do.”
It’s taken the last four years to get to this position where she’s been able to attract to top-line sponsors and a star studded lineup. She’s very clear on why she’s set out to create this team, and tells of a turning point last year that reinforced her view that women’s cycling is inadequately supported and given the respect it deserves.
“Last year there was one incident that reminded me I need to take this step. And that was one day when the team I was with had the athletes travel from Italy to Belgium, I think it took them 13 hours, and they arrived after midnight. The next day they were expected to perform at world class level and unfortunately for them they didn’t on the day. The answers for me were right there why they didn’t perform, but the directors of the team couldn’t understand, and blamed it on their previous training methods.
“I was 100% convinced the girls were in top form and they were let down in the last 24-hours by logistical reasons.” Reasons, she says, were difficult for her to see and really hard to accept. “They didn’t get the best out of themselves that day.”
Her aim, simply, is to give the women the opportunity to do their best on the day. It’s about giving them the support, the environment, the advice, they need to perform at the highest level.
It’s widely reported that women’s cycling is woefully and embarrassingly under supported and funded when compared to the men’s racing. There is very little money, both in the budgets the team have to look after the riders and provide the top level sport they need to compete on the world stage, and in also in the wages and prize money they receive. The team declined to divulge details of the budget they have for the season, but we’re betting it’s sufficient to have an impact on the running of women’s teams.
Women’s cycling, more than ever, is on the agenda this year. Following a fantastic London 2012 Olympics, where female athletes were the undoubted stars of the show, there’s many searching questions being asked of the portrayal and backing for, not just women’s cycling, but all female sports. The playing field needs to be level.
Could this team be the turning point? On its own, probably not, but it’s a significant step in the right direction. Many eyes, both within the sport and outside, will be on this fledgling group of riders as they embark on the most exciting step in their careers.
Director Sportif: Simon Cope
Mechanic: Adam Nordmeyer
PR Manager: Myfanwy Galloway
Photographer: Bart Hazen
Soigneur / Masseur: Kristof Van Campenhout
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.