How well do you know the sponsors of women’s cycling?
From hotels to theme parks, these are the sponsors that are keeping the lights on for women's cycling.
From hotels to theme parks, these are the sponsors that are keeping the lights on for women's cycling.
Two weeks ago at La Course, we published this guide to the sponsors of women’s cycling. In the carnage of the opening stage of the Tour de France, it sank like a stone, so with the 2021 Giro d’Italia Donne now underway, it’s time for another run.
For the last eight years, La Course has been the biggest stage for women’s cycling.
The event itself doesn’t consistently offer the most compelling racing, and it is regularly criticised as an afterthought, but it nestles inside the Tour de France like a babushka doll. With that comes a vast global audience – bigger than women’s cycling can secure on any other day of racing – and as a result, it’s where sponsor exposure can have the biggest impact.
In late June, we published a guide to the team sponsors of the men’s WorldTour.
As La Course speeds through Brittany, just before the opening stage of the Tour kicks off, it’s time to do the same for the women’s peloton, with all the teams racing the event.
The start list for La Course comprises all of the top division WorldTeams – nine in all – as well as the highest ranked of the Continental teams. There’s a wide spectrum of sponsor investment on display – some of the top teams operate on a budget similar to second-division men’s ProTeams, and some of the Continental teams are run on the smell of an oily rag. Some of the riders are paid a living wage, and some of them – too many of them – are paid nothing at all.
The sponsors are a mixed bag, too.
There are a bunch that you’ll have heard of, whether because they are direct female equivalents of male WorldTeams or because they have a strong individual identity. There are many of them that are almost complete-unknowns.
Happily, oppressive regimes and petrochemical companies seem to have given the women’s peloton a wide berth – at least for now.
A direct equivalent of the men’s WorldTeam, this US-based squad has one of the more progressive approached when it comes to equality. Every member of the team is paid a minimum of as much as a male WorldTeam rider, and the squad introduced benefits like maternity leave before the UCI caught up and made it a mandatory requirement of the women’s WorldTeam designation.
Trek is, as you are probably well aware, an American bike brand. Segafredo is an Italian coffee company under the umbrella of Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group.
This supersquad of the women’s peloton – formerly known as Boels-Dolmans – has entered the women’s WorldTour for the first time in 2021. Its naming rights sponsor, SD Worx, is a massive HR company that has been around since 1945, serving more than five million people mostly across Europe.
It has a mission to “spark success at the heart of your business”, and in turn is “delighted to spark success in this international [cycling] team, that is as committed to results as we are.”
That is, as you will note, a lot of sparks flying all over the place.
One of the most prestigious teams of the women’s WorldTour, with arguably its most distinct visual identity, the German-registered Canyon-SRAM squad brings a lot of Big Bike Industry Energy to its sponsor list.
Canyon, the German direct-to-consumer bike brand, is one of the naming rights sponsors, while SRAM – the Chicago based componentry manufacturer – is the other. Rapha, the team’s apparel sponsor, doesn’t get its name on the team but has an oversized importance in the overall look and feel of the squad.
Bankrolled by Australian multi-millionaire Gerry Ryan, Team BikeExchange follows the lead of Trek-Segafredo in offering the riders of its female team the same minimum wage as the men on its male WorldTeam.
Gerry Ryan made his fortune in the caravan game with the company Jayco, but has a wide portfolio of investments across multiple industries, many of which have at points sponsored the cycling teams he helped establish. BikeExchange is an online bicycle sales platform, and gets the call up for naming rights exposure in 2021.
While not being quite as stereotypically French as the very French Groupama FDJ men’s WorldTeam, FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope is still quite French. It’s a separate entity to the men’s team, but shares a major sponsor in FDJ – the French government-owned national lottery.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine is an administrative region of France – indeed, its biggest – taking up about the bottom left quarter of the country.
Futuroscope is a French theme park within Nouvelle-Aquitane that has occasionally flirted with cycling, hosting stages of the men’s Tour de France at various points. Wikipedia alleges that it has “several 3D cinemas and a few 4D cinemas, along with other attractions and shows, some of which are the only examples in the world.” My understanding of a 4D cinema is that it’s a 3D cinema with some bonus wafts or squirts of liquid, but perhaps it also has a time-travel component, in which case Futuroscope is very special indeed.
Either way, it’s the kind of eccentric team sponsor that the sport needs more of.
The team formerly known as Sunweb changed sponsors abruptly to DSM at the turn of the season, both on the men’s and women’s front. DSM is a Dutch multinational that works across multiple industries under the three broad banners of nutrition, materials and innovation.
For years, Liv was a sub-brand of the Taiwanese company Giant Bicycles, branded as ‘Liv Giant’. Now, there have been moves to separate them a bit more, so they’re brother and sister brands. Liv bikes are separately designed from Giant bikes, representing distinct offerings rather than modified versions of existing products designed for the male market.
Liv also sponsors a cycling team. This is that team. They are purple, they have flowers, they will race their bikes for hours.
This Italian registered-squad has been in the peloton since 2011, taking on its current incarnation in 2020.
Alé is an Italian cycling apparel manufacturer that produces kit for both male and female cyclists – most recently they were the masterminds of Bahrain Victorious’ NFT jersey stunt at the Tour de France teams presentation.
BTC Ljubljana is one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe, located in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia.
A women’s equivalent of the gloriously dysfunctional men’s squad this Spanish WorldTeam is the home of Dutch star Annemiek van Vleuten, one of the sport’s most dominant riders.
Movistar is a telecommunications company under the umbrella of parent company Telefonica, operating in Spain and Hispanic American markets.
The female version of the men’s Jumbo-Visma squad, this is effectively a WorldTeam in all but categorisation: as it’s in its first year of operation, it’s not able to go straight into the top division. However, on the strength of its roster – which includes multiple world champ Marianne Vos – and its professionalism, it’s a foregone conclusion.
Jumbo is a Dutch supermarket chain, the second biggest in the Netherlands.
In the men’s article I pointed out that Jumbo appears to be plagued by website problems, seeing as I only ever get an error message whenever I try to access it from Australia. Dutch readers have pointed out that they can see it just fine, which is great for them but cold comfort for international journalists trying to find out about how much stroopwaffels are going for these days.
Visma is a Norwegian software company.
This longstanding US team is currently sponsored by Tibco – a software company that is the “global leader in integration and analytics software”.
On co-sponsor duties is Silicon Valley Bank, which – you guessed it – is a bank targeting customers in Silicon Valley. It is, and I quote:
“the bank used by 50% of US-based, venture-backed tech and life science companies.*
With A.R. Monex Women’s Pro Cycling Team, we find ourselves faced with a metaphor for the precariousness of the women’s peloton. Until recently, this was Astana Women’s Team. Astana’s sponsors, a Kazakh conglomerate of state-owned companies, pulled its sponsorship at the end of 2020, leading to a scramble for sponsors to keep the squad alive.
This is the result. A.R. Program is a MTB team that is now sharing some love with its drop-bar siblings; Monex is a “financial giant operating all over the world”. They have a Mexican sponsor influence now, giving the roster a Latin flavour, but the squad is based in Italy. And their website is still all about Astana, which isn’t involved in any way whatsoever.
Like I said. Metaphor.
This Spanish Continental team has perhaps the loudest kit in the sport, which is saying something seeing as Alé BTC Ljubljana is still an existing entity. First registered in 2004, this team has had a bunch of different sponsors over the years but the common thread is a tie to the Basque region.
That’s where most of the funding is coming from these days, with the region of Bizkaia and town of Durango taking centre-stage currently. Many of the other sponsors are heavy on Xs and Ks, linguistic hallmarks of the team’s home region.
An off-shoot of the male ProTeam Arkéa Samsic, Team Arkéa is a new squad this year. Based in Brittany – where La Course will be raced – the team has an overwhelmingly French roster. Arkéa is a banking company.
A longstanding fixture of the US pro scene, Rally has a presence in both the men’s and women’s peloton, with common sponsorship. That sponsorship comes from Rally Health – a company that works with “health plans, care providers, and employers to drive meaningful consumer health engagement.”
They – the team, the sponsor, the whole shebang – are very keen on the colour orange.
The UK’s most successful women’s cycling team, Drops – Le Col s/b Tempur also features one of the most fetching kits and a strong visual identity.
Try as I might, I can’t find out what ‘Drops’ is or does – there’s a yarn company by the same name, but that doesn’t sound quite right and they don’t seem to care about cycling.
We’re on steadier footing with the other sponsors. Le Col is a cycling kit manufacturer, and the team is also supported by (that’s the ‘s/b’, obviously) the mattress brand Tempur. It claims to be the world’s largest bedding company, using technology developed by NASA, and who am I to question any of it.
Ceratizit WNT Pro Cycling is sponsored this year by Ceratizit Group – a manufacturer of “sophisticated cutting tools and hard material solutions” that has them “tooling the future”. In co-sponsor duties is WNT, which is a sub-brand of Ceratizit Group, which I guess means that they’re double-tooling the future.
A team that has a great kit and a bad run losing its top talent to other squads (what’s up Demi Vollering! How’s it going Lorena Wiebes!), this continental squad is sponsored by Parkhotel Valkenburg, which is – you guessed it – a Parkhotel in Valkenburg, in the south of the Netherlands.
It is four star accommodation, has gratis Wifi, is 300 m from downtown Valkenburg “and its caves”, and is currently offering a two-night ‘Romance’ package complete with salt scrubs and a hot and cold tapas board.
An overwhelmingly Italian continental team with a very bright kit, this squad is sponsored by Valcar – a third-party CNC, turning and milling manufacturer that claims to have 13 lathes and 13 machining centres in its machine park.
Travel & Service is a car and bus rental service.
A Spanish team from Catalunya, this squad has 12 riders from five countries and is sponsored by Massi bikes (who I would love to tell you more about, but its website is down), and Tactic, a cycling apparel manufacturer (who I have never heard of, and whose website is up).
I have never heard of this team, but just for you, I have learnt that they are sponsored by a French sporting club (Stade Rochelais) and the French region of la Charente Maritime. I wish them well in their current and future endeavours.
An Italian team with a slightly cringey name, Top Girls Fassa Bortolo is sponsored by a construction materials company that offers mortar, plaster, paint, insulation and all sorts of other practical products for the casual and corporate home renovator.