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Uno-X and its mission to dive into the Women’s WorldTour

Scandinavian squad will be launching women's team in 2022 with pay parity, equal opportunity and big plans to go straight to the top-tier of racing.

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There will be a new name in the women’s peloton in 2022. And if Uno-X has its way, it may be diving directly into the Women’s WorldTour.

Team Uno-X is planning to expand into women’s racing in 2022 as it looks to broaden its ambition to bring Scandinavian cycling to the center of the pro peloton. And as if that wasn’t a big enough task on its own, team manager Jens Haugland is also battling UCI measures in a bid to move his new squad straight into the top-tier of racing.

“We will launch the professional women’s team from next year, and we want to be WorldTour – it’s a big project for us right now,” Haugland told VeloNews this week.

“We are from Scandinavia, and gender equality is of no discussion for us. Everyone deserves equal rights and resources, and the development in cycling for both genders are truly exciting and attractive,” he continued. “We will be named Uno-X Pro Cycling team. Not Uno-X Pro Cycling women’s team. This is one project.”

Also read: Meet Team Uno-X: The Scandinavian devo powerhouse punching above its weight

The youthful, home-developed Norwegian and Danish talent of Uno-X’s men’s team has been hitting far above its weight this season as Haugland brings his vision for rider development and “total racing” to the world stage. With the Norway-registered outfit now in its second year in the ProTeam category, Haugland is looking to bring his growing experience and resource to launch a women’s squad that will do more than just make up the numbers.

“We needed to learn how to create a professional organization bottom-up. Now we know how. So now the next obvious step is to complete the team,” he said. “We hope to launch a project that will be well noticed in the world of cycling. This will be according to the Uno-X philosophy [of rider development and opportunity], and we are planning to show ourselves. We will create a team both for talents but also for producing, producing results, I’m pretty confident about that.”

Although the transfer market is still firmly shut, Haugland was positive that his bold ambition will be matched by an equally impressive roster of young and upcoming Danes and Norwegians. And with retired Danish racer Lars Bak at the wheel, team Uno-X is hoping to make moves in women’s racing, and fast.

“They are going all-in on getting one of the very best teams in women’s cycling,” Bak told TV2 Sport. “I am responsible for getting the project ready to run from 2022 as a large team on the women’s WorldTour.”

UCI loopholes

Haugland Uno-X
Haugland is battling UCI protocol preventing women’s teams directly entering the WorldTour. Photo: Uno-X

That’s right, Bak said WorldTour status for 2022.

UCI regulations prevented Jumbo-Visma Women’s team from starting directly at top-tier status this year, and next season, Cofidis will similarly have to start its new squad at Continental level. Nonetheless, Haugland is pushing to fast-track his project straight to the top in its debut season – and he’s putting his money where his mouth is by committing to ensure pay parity across both the men’s and women’s structures.

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“I’m a bit frustrated about this,” Haugland said on a call this week. “If we are forced to establish a Conti team we will do that. But I really want to launch it as a WorldTour team. The UCI does not allow women’s teams to go directly to the WorldTour, and I can understand that in one way, but on the other way, we are running a totally professional organization now within the men’s team.

“I just don’t understand that when there are only nine women’s WorldTour teams today. We will see if that changes, if not we will launch it as a Conti team this year, WorldTour team next year. But we will start with the same minimum pay as the men’s pro riders from this year whatever the situation, that’s definite.”

Haugland and the brains behind Team Uno-X are working with the Danish and Norwegian national foundations to try to find a pathway directly to the top of women’s cycling in 2022.

However, with Marianne Vos and Jumbo-Visma hitting the big time in the classics and Uno-X currently worrying the men’s WorldTour best, maybe UCI status isn’t everything after all.