CW comment: Does Team Wiggins need a female squad?

2012 Tour champion has previously invested in Wiggle-Honda, so cannot be accused of sexism.

After Cycling Weekly yesterday revealed the line-up and jersey of Bradley Wiggins’s new Sky-backed team, which largely comprises of the Great Britain men’s endurance squad, some of the team’s riders were targeted on Twitter by a minority of cycling fans.

Their crime? Joining a new setup that does not include a women’s element.

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Given Team Wiggins is designed to help the GB squad win team pursuit gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics, can anybody blame the likes of Andy Tennant and Steven Burke for joining?

Furthermore,  control over race schedule is reportedly one of the reasons why Wiggins is setting up this squad and leaving Team Sky halfway through 2015. This factor is not always beneficial for those in Britain’s road-orientated domestic squads, either.

But what about Britain’s women’s endurance squad? Were people justified in their criticism of Team Wiggins because of its male-dominated approach?

First, it needs to be considered that Wiggins and his foundation has supported the Wiggle-Honda women’s team since its inception in 2013; a team that currently includes track riders Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell and Elinor Barker.

CW believes that this financial support in 2013 and 2014 comes to a six-figure sum. Team owner Rochelle Gilmore has previously described Wiggins’s input as “invaluable”.

Last March, she told The Guardian: “He [Wiggins} is really interested in British cycling and how the girls are doing. Sometimes when I get him on the phone I can’t get him off.”

Admittedly, changes are afoot for 2015. Rowsell will join her GB team-mates Katie Archibald and Ciara Horne at Pearl Izumi-Sports Tours International. Trott and Barker switch to Matrix-Vulpine, while Dani King (currently not part of the GB track squad, but hoping to rejoin it in time for Rio) will stay at Wiggle. With the exception of King, these riders will still receive income because they are on British Cycling’s Olympic Podium Programme.

And what of their calendar control? Upon signing Trott in September, Matrix DS Stef Wyman said: “Laura is a massive talent no matter what she does, but primarily she is a track cyclist and we are here to help her prepare for the Rio Olympics.”

Rowsell, too, reiterated her satisfaction in regards to control over her schedule in the build up to the 2016 Games.

“I am delighted to be signing for the Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International squad for the next two years and having the security of knowing what my race schedule will look like as I aim to gain selection for Team GB in Rio 2016,” she said upon signing for the squad.

Furthermore, Wiggins has previously stated his new project has a long-term focus. It may not have a women’s squad at present, but to accuse him of sexism is somewhat misguided.