In a statement released on Sunday, Brian Cookson said that he had spent some weeks considering his future in the sport following being ousted as UCI president in September and had decided he was “not quite ready to disappear altogether from the world of cycling”.
He said: “I have decided that I want to do something different in the sport. Something that I have not done before.
“My intention is that this should begin with the establishing of a 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.”
Cookson said there had “never been so much interest” in the women’s sport. “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,” he said.
However, Cookson has not yet got any financial backing for his new team as he went onto say that he “believes that there are companies out there” that could benefit from being involved in the women’s side of the sport. He said he had already received initial interest in the project but was keen to point out that it was in its embryonic stages.
Cookson went on to issue a call for those interested in the project to get in touch.
“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,” he said.
Cookson is clearly not short of ambition, suggesting that such a team might grow to include a men’s squad at development level and perhaps eventually a men’s WorldTour team. This would fit with teams like Sunweb, Orica-Scott and Movistar, all of which have both a men’s and women’s squad.