On 21 September 2017, my time as President of the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for the sport of cycling, came to an end.
I enjoyed my four years as President and am proud of what my team and I were able to achieve during that time.
After a number of weeks considering my future, I have decided that I am not quite ready to disappear altogether from the world of cycling. I am at present doing a small number of speaking engagements, media interviews, podcasts, etc.
In due course, I will be writing a book about my lifetime of experiences in the sport.
However, as of this moment, I have decided that I want to do something different in the sport. Something that I have not done before.
Over the next few months, I am going to be exploring the possibilities of setting up a new professional cycling team structure.
My intention is that this should begin with the establishing of a UCI Women’s WorldTour Team for 2019 – a team that will meet or exceed the new high standards that are likely to be put in place by the UCI for the new two-tier structure for Women’s Teams that was developed during my term as UCI President.
I am not just talking about a top-level team in the traditional sense. There has never been so much interest in women’s sport, fitness and health generally, and this is clearly reflected in the interest in women’s cycling, not just at the elite level, but in terms of general participation.
It seems to me that we are at a moment of real opportunity for women’s cycling. We are at a pivotal point, a sea-change in attitude towards women’s sport in the media and amongst the public is taking place, and we should seize this opportunity.
I believe that there are companies out there that could benefit tremendously from linking their brand to the sport and pastime of cycling – using the inspirational power of elite sport to encourage more women and girls to take up cycling for the health and environmental benefits that it can bring to so many people, right around the world.
Of course, I am British and the team would be based in the UK, but I am thinking here of a global team, with riders from all parts of the world, taking part in the UCI Women’s WorldTour calendar, which now has events right around the globe.
I am putting this idea out there because I want to stimulate the decision-makers in those companies, many of whom (men and women) enjoy cycling themselves, to start to think about the possibilities.
The potential return on their investment could be very substantial, but I want to make it clear that it will need innovation, creativity, and a major effort from their side to make that happen.
I am not looking for a company to simply underwrite the team, I am looking for partners who want to invest in an initiative that will make a real difference to people’s lives, potentially right around the world.
I also want to emphasise here that I am at the very beginning of the planning process. Over the last couple of weeks, I have spoken to a number of people, in a number of companies and other organisations, and there is certainly some real initial interest.
I envisage bringing together, with a title sponsor, a unique combination of equipment and clothing manufacturers, universities and health organisations, vehicle and logistics suppliers, all of the necessary partners to make this the most successful, most effective and most popular team in the world.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the team will have the highest ethical standards, too, in every respect.
If I can get this off the ground and make it successful, then maybe we could even reverse the usual process, and build a structure for men’s teams onto this. Perhaps starting with an Under-23 or Development Team, building eventually into a Men’s WorldTour Team. The possibilities are endless.
So, I am looking for people who think they can help get this off the ground to get in touch with me. There is no budget and no funding at the present moment.
At this stage, I’m not looking for people who are looking for a job, or a place on the team – all that will come later. Here and now, I am interested in talking to companies who might want to share this vision and help me make it happen.