As Matrix Fitness Racing Academy begin their annual sponsorship round, they and one longstanding sponsor are taking the unprecedented step of opening up to the public the real cost of running a successful women's racing team.
Stef Wyman, team manager of Matrix Fitness Racing Academy, also known as On The Drops, says that women's racing is taking off faster than expected, but says that more transparency about what sponsors can expect to get for their money - often surprisingly modest sums - will help the process immensely.
On The Drops are sponsored by Vulpine, whose founder Nick Hussey says that he's attracted to the sport by a number of factors, including a love of racing, the glamour and the possibility of effecting change.
He told road.cc: "It is exceptional, almost embarrassingly good value."
He added: “Cycling as a whole is booming. Everyone wants to be involved. Women’s racing offers immense value on many levels for a potential sponsor.
"That coupled with a love of all bike racing, plus Stef’s drive and track record meant I jumped into being a minor sponsor before we were even a year old. Now I want to extend and increase our involvement.”
He added that there was an altruistic motivation too. "I want to be helping drive change. I'm very ambitious in this respect. I'm all about positivity.
"I believe we should present women's racing as cool, dynamic, exciting and even an alternative to the drugs and corruption of men's cycling. I think that will attract sponsors, rather than I think sometimes trhe media painting it as charity to sponsor."
So what does it cost to run a women's team? Here's Wyman and Hussey's breakdown; it may surprise you.
This is the total budget to establish a high-level professional team.
You can take on up to 2 named partners, who’s companies actually become the name of the team.
This amount creates a 12 rider team that can field its best teams for specific events, whether it’s the London Nocturne, or the Tour of Britain.
The sponsors can expect signed jerseys, team cars splashed with their logo, kit in their colours, VIP packages, riding in the team car, photo shoot at your office with the team.
Professional teams also have access to the worlds highest level races including the Giro Italia, Tour of Flanders and Fleche Wallonne.
It doesn’t quite get a huge Death Star style team bus though.
On it’s own this is enough to create a world leading non-professional team.
This could provide a minimum salary to riders meaning they can concentrate on racing.
This creates an 8 rider team, not dissimilar to the current Matrix Fitness Racing Academy, but improved in terms of race preparation, media communication and corporate opportunities.
Races would include mid-level professional races at home and abroad including the Tour of Britain in 2014.
Lashings of value for sponsors, but not quite the all bells and whistles big time super-team of the £250,000 package.
Co-title Sponsorship of non-professional team that’ll be part of the huge televised Tour of Britain and the consequent benefits.
VIP opportunities and all the trimmings of the £100,000, just with shared title with another partner.
Non-professional registrations allow the team to split naming rights more than 2 ways. The team could gain an exclusive partnership of the team at the televised Johnson Health Tech GP series, including the production of exclusive videos with the team, specific casual wear, and VIP events on race days.
Corporate days with the team including rides with the team from your company HQ.
Full access to the team launch and use of the team at your trade shows or events.
Provision of a rider Ambassador.
Corporate days with the team at leading events. Corporate logo on the team jersey and vehicles.
Full Rider Ambassador package.
Logo placements and targeted team and rider return.
Hussey and Wyman have set their annual budget at £250,000; other figures have calculated that a top-flight team's annual spend would be around 450,000 Euros; a fraction of the annual salary of just one leading professional male cyclist.
In March this year, Rochelle Gilmore, owner and manager of Wiggle Honda, backed by the Bradlety Wiggins Foundation, told the Guardian she believed Sky may be planning to launch a women's team, something that British pros such as Lizzie Armitstead have called for.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.