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Lucinda Brand sees the future of women’s cycling in teams operating a dual male and female structure.
Recently crowned cyclocross world champion, Brand is riding into her second season with Trek Segafredo women’s road team in 2021. The squad is one of a growing cast of top teams to incorporate both a men’s and women’s structure, and it’s a method that the Dutchwoman believes paves the way for women’s racing.
“It’s really huge for women’s cycling, and very important,” Brand told VeloNews. “I think more and more teams are starting to see that the way we race is very positive and very interesting for sponsors. I’m very glad to hear that more and more teams are seeing the benefit of this and are really willing to add a women’s team.”
Trek-Segafredo launched its women’s team at the start of 2019, and this year, Jumbo-Visma joined them by establishing a women’s team this season.
In the coming years, WorldTour outfits Cofidis and Ag2r-Citroën are both also slated to be branching into women’s racing to throw decades of know-how into the sport. They will join the likes of Team DSM, Bike Exchange, Astana, Movistar, and Lotto Soudal in running a dual program. Brand believes that starting a women’s team is simple for a well-established male WorldTour team – it’s just the finance that needs to follow.
“Of course, you need a little bit more money and you need more people around, but the structure is already there,” she said. “And then adding a women’s team is actually a small step.”
Brand is set to take a central role for her team at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix this April. The addition of the landmark monument to the women’s calendar is part of a slow momentum building behind the sport, which is set to see a fully-televised Women’s Tour this summer, with an inaugural women’s Tour de France slated to follow in the coming years.
The 31-year-old hopes that the increasing interest from established men’s teams and growth in top races running events for both men and women brings the revenue and sponsor interest required to fuel further growth in her sport.
“It comes a lot around money, but we’re getting more and more races which are combined with the men’s race, which introduces more publicity,” she said. “And I think teams are seeing that too, and that’s of interest to them. The level is growing, and it will be growing more when we get more professional.”
Trek-Segafredo took a progressive approach to its women’s team from year zero, bringing in Ina-Yoko Teutenberg and Giorgia Bronzini as sport directors.
The American-based squad again raised the benchmark this year by jumping ahead of forthcoming UCI guidelines over parity of pay. In 2021, Trek-Segafredo women’s team salaries will match those of their male counterparts, so closing the existing chasm in minimum salary requirements
“Trek is always really forward with trying to get a more equal world in these kinds of things,” Brand said of the pay increase. “And they also from the moment they started our team – they had women’s directors, and every team that we have we have women inside the car. It’s not that you need to have it, but it’s good that there’s an understanding that it’s also a possibility.”
An Ineos-Grenadiers shaped outlier
With financing the final hurdle for well-established male teams in launching a women’s structure, big-budget Ineos Grenadiers flashes as a wide outlier in not yet creating a women’s team. But that may not be forever.
“At this moment in time we haven’t got a plan, but that’s not to say we won’t have,” team boss Dave Brailsford told The Guardian last week. “We changed halfway through the  season to Ineos which was a big undertaking, and then halfway through last season we changed to Ineos Grenadiers, which was a big undertaking.”
Speaking with Rouleur this month, former Team Sky CEO Fran Millar said that the team had been discussing starting a women’s team in 2012 to tap into the frenzy of interest in the sport after the London Olympics, only for top brass to squeeze the brakes.
“It was a decision that was made at Sky board level,” she said. But not seizing that opportunity was, with hindsight, an oversight. … I think they felt there wasn’t enough commercial viability – the Tour de France so massively outweighs the commercial value in return on investment.”