Movistar set to launch new women’s team for 2018 season?

However team struggling to attract big-name riders

Movistar could be set to launch a new women’s team for the 2018 season, with an official announcement expected in the next couple of weeks.

“We’ve been working on this for a couple of years,” Movistar team boss Eusebio Unzué told The Cycling Podcast. “This is a step forward we’re bound to make at some point as women’s sports keep growing.

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“For the moment we’re getting to know women’s cycling, and it’s too soon to confirm anything as of yet. We’ll see if this project happens this winter or the next one.”

However Cycling Weekly understands the team have been trying to recruit riders in recent weeks but have been unable to attract the biggest names with the points needed to qualify for invitations to Women’s WorldTour races.

Spanish national champion Sheyla Gutierrez was apparently one of their target riders, but is rumoured to have opted to remain with Cylance, where she has experienced success this season, including a stage win at the Giro Rosa in July.

WorldTour race organisers are only required to invite the top 15 ranked UCI Women’s teams, though the lure of having such a big name team could persuade races to have Movistar on their start lines

If Movistar decide to set up a women’s team, they will become the sixth WorldTour team to have a connected women’s set-up after Team Sunweb, Orica-Scott, FDJ, Astana, and Lotto-Soudal.

The news comes just two weeks after UCI president Brian Cookson said that men’s WorldTour teams should not be forced to have women’s equivalents, arguing that such a situation was unsustainable for the long term growth of women’s cycling.

Any announcement of a new Movistar women’s team could come in the next couple of weeks, possibly coinciding with La Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta, a criterium race taking place on the same day as the final stage of the men’s Vuelta a España.