Cofidis has announced that in 2022 it will launch its new women's team with a €1 million (A$1.56m) a year budget. The team's creation had previously been confirmed, but with few details as to its level or make-up. The team will be headed by Gaël Le Bellec, who was commissioned by Cofidis team to form a squad made up of ten riders.
“I have the habit of saying that a sports team should be a representation of the Cofidis company. We have the men’s pro team and the para cycling section, and they reflect a good part of what the Cofidis company is, but it’s a group of 5,500 people in which the majority are women. So something is missing,” said Thierry Vittu, Director of Human Resources, member of the Executive Committee and Chairman of Cofidis Competition.
“We will have a women’s team as part of the Cofidis group from 2022. It won’t be this year because we need time to put it together and gather the resources, but in 2022 we will certainly have one."
The organisation has long been involved with professional men's cycling and they are riding their 26th season as a team. All that time they have maintained the naming sponsorship of the money-lending company, a longevity of sponsorship unrivalled in the sport.
The women's squad will add to that connection to the brand of Cofidis as more than just a men's team.
"Our sports sponsorship reflects the image of the group and thus endeavors to give pride of place to diversity and parity," said Vittu.
"We are going to devote a substantial budget to it (the women's squad) – to the tune of €1 million per year – in order to be ambitious and as competitive as possible."
The funding commitment would not faze the top squads in the women's side of the sport, but certainly for a Continental women's team, the second tier of teams, it represents a solid entry with a budget to build up an organisation and rival the likes of the Jumbo-Visma women's team which is currently in its first year of operating.
UCI regulations do not allow a new team to enter the Women’s World Tour directly, and Jumbo-Visma plan to transition to the WorldTour in 2022, and while it has yet to be announced, the Cofidis team may pursue a similar path.
Cofidis have stated that the women's team will benefit from the organisational expertise of the men's programme, so perhaps that will stretch that budget a bit further than its dollar value and see the team compete at the top level.
The men's team actually receive a bigger increase to their budget than the entire women's set-up with Cofidis Group announcing that it will commit an additional €1.5 million annually as it extends its partnership with the cycling programmes, including para cycling, through 2025. The men's team's previous budget had been €11.5 million per year and will now be €13 million.
“The objective is to find a place and be essential in the biggest competitions on the calendar," said Cofidis team general manager, Cédric Vasseur. "The resources mobilised and Cofidis' commitment to cycling, through its longevity at the highest level, will be invaluable arguments for building a successful team."