Arkéa-Samsic will launch a women’s team in 2020 and hope to compete in France at the highest level before gradually improving towards a possible place in the WorldTour.
The Arkéa group’s general manager, Ronan Le Moal, told Direct Velo that women’s cycling is the “future of the sport” and that since Arkéa became involved with the team in 2014 their goal has been to have a women’s squad.
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The call came late in the season from the cycling team’s boss Emmanuel Hubert that a women’s outfit could be ready for 2020 and the sponsor stepped up immediately to begin supporting the endeavour.
“When Emmanuel told me he could be ready for next year, I said yes. We did not need to discuss for very long,” Le Moal said. “Beyond the team, we want to help women’s cycling to be more visible. In the coming years it must be easier for women to access a salary that allows them to live off their sport.”
For now the women’s squad will not be paid full salaries, Le Moal says, but they certainly aim to in the future and hope to build the sport up to a place where men and women are compensated more equally.
“It is obvious to say that we do not have the money for our athletes to live on,” Le Moal said. “That said, there is no reason that it does not happen in the future. Our goal is to be among those who will, modestly, reverse this situation.
“Do not look for the big bang [of progress] but a linear progression. In five to ten years, we must contribute to the fact that women’s cycling will be as recognised as today’s men’s cycling. We must give ourselves this objective.”
In terms of goals for the squad’s first season, Le Moal says it’s all about building chemistry within the team, and that the slow build up to Warren Barguil’s victory in the French national road championships shows there is something to be gained from working fastidiously and eventually reaping the benefits.
“I do not want to put unnecessary pressure on them. It is not good to put goals that might be disproportionate. It’s a new team, everyone will get to know each other. It is necessary to create an alchemy between the riders themselves, and with the staff. If there is fighting spirit and emotion, it would be a very good thing,” Le Moal said.
“I find beauty in sponsors having emotion. Even if the victory is not always there, we can live great moments that give value to a brand. We must allow time to build and see good cohesion, as was the case with the men. Things do not happen in a linear way, and that’s the beauty of the sport. Warren’s victory would not have been so good if he had not experienced a desert crossing.”
Le Moal has clearly charged Hubert with delivering a similar culture within the women’s team as he has the men’s, making the broader point that financial investment is key to developing the women’s side of the sport.
“We want to go through these stages with Emmanuel and the women’s team. I draw parallels with football. We need spotlights like the World Cup and filmed matches to realise that women’s football has its place among the general public. For women’s cycling, it’s the same. it requires means and actors who invest.”