Podium Ambition Pro Cycling powered by Club La Santa Women’s Team will cease to race as a UCI women’s professional team at the end of 2016. Team manager’s Dame Sarah Storey and Barney Storey have sighted a lack of financial support as the key reason.
They say this struggle has been exacerbated by changes in UCI requirements for race organisers affecting budgets available for rider accommodation and the fall of the pound.
They will be able to race outside of the UCI Women’s World Tour and to accept Wild Card entries to those prestigious races – but will need sponsorship to be able to do so.
Podium Ambition of 2016
Last year the team made their move to become a UCI professional team for 2016. Doing so requires registration costs and the Storey family have had to foot the bill in many cases. The timing for the registration deadline meant they had to plunge in – feet first – before negotiations with potential sponsors could be completed, thus underwriting costs themselves.
As well as turning pro in 2016, Podium Ambition also developed a ‘Boot Out Breast Cancer’ club which worked as a pathway for aspiring riders. A selection of scholarship riders headed up the club, and they were given bikes and support – but anyone could join and ride or race as part of the community. This was a unique way of operating a pro cycling team and one TWC was keen to support and cover in depth.
Over 2016, the pro team supported the preparations of Dame Sarah Storey to 3 gold medals at the Rio Paralympics and secured 26 victories on home soil alongside impressive results at UCI level including 8 visits to the podium. They also discovered and developed new talent at international level in EJay Harris and supported Sharon Laws in her final year at UCI level, whilst seeing Claire Rose take on her first year in a few as a full-time rider. They have held jerseys at the Tour of California, Bira Stage race and Tour of Brittany.
Dame Sarah explained: “We were happy to be the financial difference that allowed the team to step up to UCI level whilst we proved it was possible to have a UK based UCI team that allowed riders to live at home and still pursue a career on the road. Our equipment sponsors are incredibly generous in their support, and their cash input alongside the goods they provide is obviously at the level we would hope to achieve, but it takes more than that to fully fund a season long programme and ultimately this year we were only active for about half of it due to the low budget ceiling and Rio 2016.”
She added: “12 months ago we were faced with the option of taking a risk to give a group of riders who had dominated UK racing for 2 years, the opportunity to race consistently at UCI and Women’s World Tour level or to play it safe and wait until the financials were secured for more than 1 year. Of course in an ideal world the sustainability would come first, but if you don’t take any risks you are likely to miss a lot of opportunities. Given our time again, I would do everything the same.”