It’s getting busy at the top.
The Women’s WorldTour is set to grow by a further five squads next season, but it is still a team short of its ambitious target of 15 set out back in 2018.
Next year will see the third incarnation of the Women’s WorldTeam category, which was created as part of the UCI’s effort to grow women’s cycling and close the gap between the level of support compared to the men’s side of the sport.
When the big plans were unveiled at the Innsbruck world championships in 2018, the aim was to have five teams come on board for the first season in 2020 and see that increase by five in each of the subsequent two seasons.
— UCI_media (@UCI_media) October 19, 2021
The quota was oversubscribed in the first year, with eight teams securing a place in 2020, but SD Worx — absent in year one due to sponsor challenges — was the only team to sign up in 2021, meaning the UCI was suddenly behind schedule. It needed six new applicants this year to get back on track but hasn’t been able to do so.
With just 14 teams set for the top tier in 2022, will the UCI be able to fulfill its major goal, or will it be forced to progress with an empty slot? Are any teams able to fill the gap?
The missing player
Despite a huge announcement and big money and ambitions to match, the absence of the Cofidis women’s squad from the list of applications was a glaring one. The team has a €1 million budget burning a hole in its pocket, one of the largest in women’s cycling, and would be a prime contender for a place at the WorldTour table.
VeloNews has contacted the team about its ambitions for next season, as well as the UCI, and is waiting for a response.
Being a WorldTeam comes with lots of additional responsibilities, not least financial ones.
With each year’s growth, the level of finances required to gain entry to the top tier hasincreased. New teams for 2022 must be able to provide a minimum salary of €27,500 for each of their riders, a number that will grow to €32,102 (the current minimum for ProTeam men) in 2023.
Not only that but — as with the men’s WorldTour — the teams are required to race in every WorldTour event. This is a task that is getting harder as the calendar grows quickly while the size of rosters remains quite small compared to men’s squads.
It may be the case with Cofidis that they anticipate a wildcard entry to next year’s Tour de France Femmes and don’t want the hassle of being forced to go to some races and overwork their 10-rider line-up.
Also read: Cofidis to launch women’s team in 2022
If Cofidis does choose to stay at Continental level for 2022, are there any teams willing or able to make the leap? UAE Emirates takeover at Ale BTC Ljubljana will provide another big-budget team but won’t give the WorldTour the additional squad it needs.
Drops-Le Col had hoped to be able to apply for a WorldTour license for 2022, but while it has the sponsorship it needs to keep going next year it told VeloNews that it doesn’t have enough funding to support the WorldTour set-up.
Equally, Valcar-Travel & Service — one of the top-ranked Continental teams — would gladly step up but it doesn’t have the financial security to do so.
“We would like to have the World Tour license, but we don’t have the budget to support the costs difference between a Continental Team and a WorldTour one,” the team told VeloNews in a statement.
As one looks further down the UCI rankings, the available budgets get smaller, and the opportunities become fewer. The best chance to fill the final spot may be a bit of gentle persuasion from the UCI towards the Cofidis team.
Whatever the case, it’s not all over for those who have not already been listed and any team hoping to fill the void has until early December to finalize the paperwork.
“Teams that do not appear on this list still have the possibility to finalize their applications before the end of the registration procedure, which will be determined by the completion of the Licence Commission hearings, anticipated for December,” the UCI wrote in a statement Tuesday.
Who are the new applicants?
Rally Cycling: One of two U.S. squads to put their hat in the ring for WorldTeam status in 2022. The move to the top, should they be awarded a license, will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Rally women’s program. The team has made some big steps this season, taking part in a much more international race calendar that included making their debut at the Giro d’Italia Donne.
The more European-centric program will continue into next season and the squad has been making moves to shore up its roster to facilitate that. American riders Katie Clouse and Lily Williams will be joined by experienced European racers in Mieke Kroger, Evy Kuijpers, and Barbara Malcotti, with more signings to be announced in the coming weeks.
Roland Cogeas Edelweiss: While the other four teams were expected, this team came as a bit of a surprise entry for some. It shouldn’t have, as the team announced its intentions back in August, but it flew under the radar.
The team has been about for four years and has U.S. time trial star Amber Neben on its roster. It is currently operating with a Russian license under the name Cogeas Mettler Look Pro Cycling. However, it plans to register as Swiss for 2022 and take on 10 riders — two more than it currently has — and set up a development team. There is currently very little information on who will ride for the team next season.
Jumbo-Visma: This team’s inclusion on the list of new applicants may have come as a surprise for some given its roster of heavy hitters, but the Jumbo-Visma team is the biggest name set to rise to the top in 2022. The team had hoped to go straight into the WorldTour when it made its debut this season but was blocked by rules that prevented teams from applying in their first year of existence.
New rider alert! 🚨 We’re happy to announce the signing of @CorynRivera 🇺🇸 Welcome to the team Coryn! 💛🖤
— Team Jumbo-Visma Women (@JumboVismaWomen) October 7, 2021
With names like Marianne Vos in the line-up, the team has more than provided a match for the top-tier squads. Coryn Labecki (née Rivera) will bolster the roster for 2022, but the team already has some promising talents that it has sought to keep rather than splash the cash on new riders.
Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank: This is the second U.S. team putting its hat into the WorldTour ring for 2022. Run by Linda Jackson, the team has been around since 2006 and is well known for developing promising talent and nurturing it. This year, it had breakout stars Sarah Gigante and Kristen Faulkner on its roster. Gigante is due to move to Movistar in 2022, while Faulkner is yet to announce her plans for next season.
The team has been pretty quiet on the new signing front so far, but it has extended its deals with U.S. champion Lauren Stephens and former U.S. cyclocross champion Clara Honsinger.
Uno-X Pro Cycling: This is the only brand-new team aiming to step up to the WorldTour in 2022. The rule that prevented Jumbo-Visma from getting its foot in the door this year was relaxed for 2022, in anticipation that not enough existing squads would apply for a WorldTour license.
The Norwegian squad has been very busy since the transfer window opened, signing up 12 riders so far. New signings include the hour record holder Joss Lowden and a raft of Norwegian talent.