Rapha has added new female athletes to its roster, sponsoring ultra-endurance athlete Lael Wilcox as well as adventure racer Sarah Sturm.
The pair join Rapha rider and Canadian Cyclocross champion, Maghalie Rochette, who was signed in September 2020.
Asked what exactly the support included, Rapha told us: "Our athletes receive monetary support, personalised Rapha Custom kit, as worn in the WorldTour, and receive a royalty from sales of their kit. We will tell their story to elevate their mission to a wider audience and to inspire others, and support them with projects that reach our shared vision of inspiring more people to ride, more often."
This new sponsorship exists alongside the brand's commitment to Canyon-SRAM UCI WorldTour women's race team and the US elite domestic outfit, Legion of LA - which has gained female riders including Kendall Ryan, Skylar Schneider, and Avry Howes.
The support for Wilcox and Sturm, whose racing palmarès exist in a world outside of the traditional road and cyclocross spheres, aligns with Rapha's move into the "alternative calendar adventures" which it supported via EF Education First's campaign (opens in new tab) to take part in races outside of the UCI calendar.
Wilcox won the 2016 Trans Am Bike Race, and also set the women's record for the 2,750 mile Tour Divide in 2015. Sturm's 2019 achievements include a podium finish at the Sea Otter Classic and she's also two-time US Single Speed Cyclocross National Champion.
The commitment to these riders comes alongside The Rapha Foundation's (opens in new tab) annual $1.5 million spend, which is earmarked for supporting underrepresented cycling communities, with cash going on incentives such as the Helen100 Foundation which paid for entries to allow 100 under-23 women into the British National Cyclocross Championships.
As well as organising its annual Rapha Women's 100 ride, (opens in new tab) encouraging women to ride together (physically or virtually), launching the majority of its clothing options in both male and female fit, as well as women's only ranges (opens in new tab), the brand has set up a 'Rapha Women' Instagram feed (opens in new tab) to help showcase women in cycling and "facilitate conversations on important issues relating to the world of women's cycling."
What might those "important issues relating to the world of women's cycling" be?
Well, a 2020 survey by The Cyclists' Alliance found that 25 per cent of professional female riders received zero wage - an alarming increase from 17 per cent in 2019. There's huge prize money discrepancies t (opens in new tab)o go along side that, as well as a lack of TV coverage (opens in new tab) to create a perfect circular funding issue.
Many women's races continue to be held over shorter distances versus men's, the Toyko Olympics (opens in new tab) being a prominent example, a strange situation given the well-documented endurance capabilities of women. (opens in new tab) At the pro end, there have also been multiple allegations of sexual harassment (opens in new tab) within teams, as well as allegations of mistreatment such as manipulation, bullying and fat-shaming (opens in new tab).
Other issues include the prevalence of sports science studies that use only men (opens in new tab), which can result in women receiving unreliable advice or treatment. In addition, the way the menstrual cycle affects women in sport has also come under the microscope recently, Olympic and World champion Elinor Barker spoke out about her struggles with endometriosis (opens in new tab) in 2019. A recent study (opens in new tab) found that whilst 80 per cent of coached women found their menstrual cycle affected their performance, 90 per cent said they had never discussed it with their coach.
Cycling Weekly's own survey (opens in new tab) found that 30 per cent of female readers surveyed could be putting their health at risk via underfuelling - twice the number of men affected - at 15 per cent.
So, it seems there will be plenty of issues to discuss - as well as some very exciting female riders on hand to inspire and empower.
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Cycling Weekly's Digital Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.
When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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