Cycling’s richest team, the Ineos Grenadiers, are said to be laying plans to launch a women’s squad within the next two years.
We’ve heard reliable whispers the British outfit is looking to introduce a women’s team in time for the 2025 season.
In 2021, former Team Sky (Ineos Grenadiers’ previous name) CEO Fran Millar said plans to create a women’s squad in 2012 were rejected by Sky (the sponsoring company) at board level. Around the time of Millar’s comments, team principal Dave Brailsford said there wasn’t currently a plan in place to create a women’s outfit, but the idea had been put back under review. It now seems further steps are being taken to potentially turn the idea into reality.
The Ineos Grenadiers currently have one female rider on their books, multiple world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, who is part of the British squad’s “off-road roster”. Intriguingly, she recently told Cycling Weekly she is aiming for a return to road racing after the Paris Olympics in 2024, where she is aiming for gold in the cross-country mountain bike event.
“I come from road racing originally, so of course I’d like to return to the road one day,” the Frenchwoman told the British magazine.
“I don’t know,” she then answered when asked whether she expects to be able to compete for the Ineos Grenadiers on the road when it’s time for her tarmac comeback. “It’s not up to me to say these things. But women’s cycling is evolving really well. It’s really interesting to see the evolution and to see that the sport has grown enormously.”
The Ineos Grenadiers are currently very much focused on supporting Ferrand-Prévot with her current off-road goals and likewise, the 31-year-old has had input into the team’s other projects like its cycling academy in Kenya. It appears the partnership between the team and its first female athlete is proving fruitful.
If Ineos is going to enter the women’s peloton, there are few better racers to help smooth its path than the experienced, multi-talented Frenchwoman. But that’s just one roster spot. Where do the rest of the riders come from?
SD Worx denies sale rumour
One answer is to buy an existing structure. There are three Women’s WorldTour squads with no partner men’s team at the WorldTour or ProTeam level: Canyon-SRAM, Liv Racing, and SD Worx.
As it happens, Rod Ellingworth, Ineos Grenadiers’ racing director, reportedly met with SD Worx manager Danny Stam at the recent Ardennes Classics, leading to speculation about a deal. But when asked about a possible sale of the team, representatives strongly pushed back on the idea and said the contact occurred simply because the two teams were staying at the same hotel in Maastricht. “Danny Stam has already been a friend of Rod Ellingworth for a long time from his past as a track cyclist,” the team said. “We have no idea where these reports about potentially buying Team SD Worx are coming from and these reports are not true.”
When we approached Ineos Grenadiers for comment on whether they were launching a women’s team, and if they were going to buy SD Worx to do so, the team said there was nothing to comment on.
The two things you can say about the British team are that they and their owner like to dream big, and they are very much focused on the future. On the current team, Tom Pidcock and Filippo Ganna are under contract through 2027, while Egan Bernal and Ben Turner are signed through 2026. If they do start a women’s team, it won’t tiptoe into the peloton.
Ratcliffe’s willingness to spending on his sports properties – evidenced by his pending multi-billion Pound bid to buy a majority stake in the Manchester United football club – is clear. The other thing that is clear is the Ineos cycling team’s inability to make a dent in the tracks being made by Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard, a problem that Ratcliffe’s wealth so far hasn’t been able to solve.
A monied move into the women’s side of the sport, which now includes the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift on its calendar, gives them another chance of winning that yellow jersey in July.