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British Cycling puts plans for UCI Women's WorldTour team on hold

CEO Julie Harrington hopes Team Sky could be persuaded to back a female team

British Cycling has put plans to set up a professional team that would compete at UCI Women’s WorldTour level, Telegraph Sport reports.

Performance director Stephen Parks said at last year’s UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway, that it would be a “real aspiration” to set up such a team.

One rationale he cited was to have the country’s best female riders signed up to the same team.

He said: “The problem is all those riders are going off and doing different things for different people and I suppose it’s just trying to balance up those programmes with the track programme.”

But now, the organisation’s chief executive Julie Harrington has poured cold water on the idea, saying that it could potentially create a conflict of interest.

She told Telegraph Sport: “No, we haven’t made any progress. Largely because our focus, probably since we last talked about it, has really been along the lines of ‘Let’s get our own house in order first.’ We need to look at every level within the sport, as well as the GBCT [Great Britain Cycling Team].

“In terms of whether it’s the right thing to do or not, I think we need to learn very serious lessons from what happened with Sky. Making sure there aren't unintended consequences.

“It is an opportunity. But there is also an opportunity to work a lot more closely with existing trade teams.”

While a number of UCI WorldTour teams including Lotto-Soudal and Team Sunweb have set up UCI Women’s WorldTour teams, Team Sky has not done so.

But Harrington, formerly operations director at the Football Association, thinks they could be persuaded.

“You know I’m from a football background,” she explained. “It’s taken Manchester United until this year to get with the programme and have a women’s team as well.”

Even the biggest women’s teams operate on a fraction of the budget of their male counterparts, and with Team Sky enjoying an annual budget in excess of £30 million, it is unlikely that finance would be an issue.

However, Harrington asked: “Is finance a barrier to running both? Is it just they haven’t thought of it? So before we run off and make one of our own, we need to explore that whole pyramid.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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