“It’s the fun element of cycling we want to retain. We’re very serious – but we haven’t forgotten that we ride because we love it, and we want to make sure we keep sharing that with people. We wanted to have a good honest club to make sure we keep giving back in the UK.” Dame Sarah explains.
Club members will ride in similar kit, and can arrange to attend sportives, time trials and other events en masse, paying a small fee (around £15 a year) which will supplement sponsorship of the pro team, as well as provision for the club.
“It will be a community which will allow people to be involved. The club kit and pro kit will hopefully share similarities, so you’ll be able to tell we’re sister teams. It won’t be the same as people riding in replica pro kit – like a football shirt – the riders will be able to say ‘I ride in the same team, or the team associated with that team’.”
“The club will act as a development arm, too – there are still a lot of young girls in the UK who have been promised things that are never delivered to them.”
Though Podium Abmiton have a strong base attending events in Manchester and a relationship with the Manchester & District Ladies Cycling Association, the club won’t have a fixed meeting place – but Storey hopes they will create a community and meet up for rides, too. She expects riders of all ages, and all abilities – competing, or just riding for fun.
Funds from the club will support the pro team, as well as providing for club members as normal. We’re not sure any other pro team has adopted this method – and Storey says: “It’s a similar format to what we often had in swimming [where Storey holds 16 Paralympic Medals, as well as her three cycling Gold’s]. It’s another avenue of resource to the team as well, so it will be a different funding stream.”
Details of the club are yet to be announced but more information will be available soon for those who want to join. Of course the Team will have key sponsors, too. Podium Ambition have been sponsored by Sports Tours International and Club La Santa UK for years and they are already confirmed as playing key roles for the team in 2016.
Becoming a UCI registered pro team will mean that the Podium Ambition riders will have access to more foreign races – but Storey intends the team to be almost 100 per cent British riders – explaining: “There’s a low number of pro women in the UCI peloton – and of them, not that many UK riders.
“There’s British registered teams like Wiggle Honda and Matrix, then some riders in Dutch or Italian teams – but I think it works well to have predominantly one nation that really helps the team move forward [similar to what Team Sky began with] – there’s not a huge number of British pros so we wants to have that to ensure there is a pathway and a clear opportunity if women are looking to make that step up.”
Storey added that the UCI status will help the team obtain more coverage, giving them more to offer sponsors – saying: “In men’s racing they have the big races that are on Eurosport, in women’s racing it’s becoming harder and harder for club teams to provide return.”
The team will include Storey, Katie Archibald and Joanna Roswell Shand, as well as new riders who will be confirmed soon. Of course, some of those riders will focus on the Olympics in Rio – but they will be catered for, and there will be plenty of strong riders to maintain the team’s edge.
Storey said: “We’re well aware there will be times when the track riders won’t be available – we have a second DS who will step in when [Storey’s husband and Team DS] Barney and I go to Rio. We know Jo and Katie’s programmes will be very different, but we’re in touch with the British team and we will be very accommodating and flexible, we have riders who will be able to race hard without their presence.”
Some of the new riders, she says will be “thrown into the deep end” but she’s confident they’ll be strong – saying: “We do have some fire power to bring in. We’re looking forward to the learning curve. We will be targeting the World Team Time Trial Championships – we’ve got a really strong time trial base as well and we think we can target being really strong there, and be top ten in the world for that.”
We wish the newly pro team all the best – and look forward to further announcements of the new riders and details of the club.