Having adopted UCI pro status for 2016, the team managed by Dame Sarah and Barney Storey is setting about defining a unique pathway which provides female cyclists in the UK with support from club to pro level.
Podium Ambition was set up as a not for profit company by Dame Sarah and Barney Storey in 2013, and for 2016 there will be two elements: the UCI pro team which is still to be formally named, and the Boot Out Breast Cancer Cycling Club (BOBC CC) which will be open to any rider who wants to join, but has six reserved spaces for scholarship riders.
The scholarship riders will receive free membership, road and time trial bikes, wheels, clothing, helmets, mentoring and support at races. These riders will help to cement the link between the pro team and its supporting club, along with shared kit designs.
BOBC Cycling Club will be open for membership from January 1, and riders who wish to join will be able to sign up in advance after the official launch of the club on November 25.
Multiple Paralympic champion and team manager Dame Sarah Storey explained: “The Cycling Club, Scholarship Programme and Professional team now ensures that Podium Ambition Limited has the complete pathway for a female cyclist and the stronger and faster you get on a bike the greater the support available."
She added: "I have been in elite sport for 24 years now and so it is an honour to be in a position to co-create, alongside Barney, something that helps put a bit back for all the support we have had over the years."
Scholarship Riders Named
The six scholarship riders consist of three over 23 and three under 23 riders who have proven themselves with successful results in their short careers.
The up and coming under 23 riders are Bethany Crumpton, current under 23 National Cross Country MTB Champion, road and track expert Bethany Taylor and junior track and road rider Monica Hope Dew.
The three over 23 riders are Nikola Matthews, who has ridden with the team under the name Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International for two seasons, Ruth Taylor, from Manchester Wheelers, and Birmingham PhD student Kelly Murphy who started racing just last year.
[related_articles]Bethany Taylor is moving in to her first year as an under 23 in January, but has already raced in the UK women’s peloton as a junior - she hopes to progress to being a professional in the future and said: "I joined to work in the friendly environment that has been created and have the benefit of riding with top class riders I see as role models, the pathway is a great idea to bring more riders through to professional level at a pace that is right for the individual."
Kelly Murphy began racing only last year but showed promise in the Women’s Rás na mBa stage race in September. She said: "I like the club to professional pathway that is on offer here... the whole racing infrastructure can be confusing and consuming [as to what is best to focus on in order to reach the next level], so having this pathway makes racing more accessible to those who have started slightly later in the day."
The development squad will follow their own race programme across the UK, consisting of road, time trial and criterium events. The wider membership of the BOBC Cycling Club will be encouraged take part in time trials and other events alongside the scholarship riders, where there is space on the start lists for them to do so.
Dame Sarah Storey explained: “We didn’t want to create a pro team development squad that would be defined and limited in their racing according to what the professional team were doing. A true path from UK racing to the UCI peloton allows the developing riders the autonomy to have their own programme and race plans, so by creating a Scholarship Programme, that races as a different team, we can ensure that everyone is well looked after and supported with their individual needs and everyone gets access to as much racing as needed to progress."
Pro Team Signings
Podium Ambition have already released the names of almost all of the riders on the 2016 pro team. The 14-strong squad will include a selection of existing team riders whose hopes rest on the Rio Olympics over 2016: Joanna Rowsell-Shand, Katie Archibald and Dame Sarah Storey.
Five more current members of the team, called Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International throughout 2015, will remain part of the 2016 roster.
Continuing their contracts and moving into the pro ranks for the first time will be Gabriella Shaw, recent winner of the Tickhill GP; Claire Rose [nee Galloway] a former GB Team Pursuit rider who has been quiet on the racing scene whilst qualifying as a Doctor and getting married; Lauren Creamer who is based in Birmingham and attached to the Irish Team Pursuit team aiming for Rio 2016 qualification; Katie Curtis, a former GB rider and professional with Vision One back in 2009 and Bethany Hayward who joined with the team as a Junior Road Race National Champion at the start of 2015.
Exciting new signings for the 2016 season include the former Road and Time Trial National Champion, Sharon Laws. The 41-year-old raced for Bigla Pro Cycling this year and claimed the Queen of the Mountains prize in 2014's Women's Tour.
Also new to the team will be Grace Garner, who took a top ten place at the Junior Road World Championships and is embarking on her first year as an under 23 rider.
The Podium Ambition family has also extended a warm welcome to Elizabeth-Jane Harris, who gained a fourth place finish at the recent RTTC Closed Circuit Time Trial Championships, and Amy Gornall, who this year won the Great Orme race in North Wales and was awarded most attacking rider at the Tickhill GP.
Two non-UK members forming part of the roster will be current pro and USA rider Sara Headley, and Australia's Nicole Moerig.
Marty McCrossan, who started working with the team from the end of 2014, said: “I know these girls are ready to create their race opportunities next year because I have seen their rate of improvement over the past 12 months. Being able to add so much British based talent to the UCI peloton is no mean feat and is a testament to how hard these girls are working to make their dreams a reality."
The team will soon enjoy some time together courtesy of training camp partners, Club La Santa UK, and the first confirmed 2016 title sponsor, Sports Tours International.
Barney Storey explained: “Like most pro teams we use December to bring the new line up together and this is something we have done as a UK based club team too. The Lanzarote base at Club La Santa is the perfect location for the team with everything on site and ideal surroundings for the essential off the bike team bonding too. The Lanzarote roads are perfect for group riding and we create a relaxed and welcoming but hard working environment for everyone."
Read more about the team structure in our exclusive interview with Dame Sarah Storey here.