In a continuation of the “How far would you go?” series, Cycling iQ investigates the destinations to which female pro cyclists travel in order to secure a place on a pro cycling team, with a particular focus on non-European road cyclists.
It has been almost two years since the last analysis of the women’s pro peloton. In that time, there has been a 6% global increase (from 421 to 446) in the number of UCI-registered female pro cyclists – mainly due to a 36% increase in riders from the Americas and a 20% increase in riders from Oceania. Asia, Africa and Europe have remained steady.
So, if you’re an aspiring pro, where do you go to join a team? Or rather, where can you go? Not surprisingly, of the 38 women’s professional road cycling teams, 27 are registered in Europe. There is an oversupply of European team contracts (318) relative to the number of pro cyclists from that region (301), so this would seem to be the logical first step – this is particularly true for riders from Oceania, which has an extreme undersupply of contracts (13) relative to riders (30).
If you’re going to target a pro contract with a European team, it pays to know a bit of Italian. Italy is the world’s biggest “supplier” of pro contracts (82) for female cyclists, followed by the Netherlands (44) and Belgium (41). Outside of Europe, USA teams account for 14.8% of all 2015 season contracts.
If you live outside of Europe, chances are that you’re not going to secure a place with a team registered in your own country (or even continent). China and the US are exceptions to this rule – 100% of all China/Hong Kong riders have found places in their home team, while US riders also fare quite well; with 88% on domestic outfits.
48% (10/21) of Australian female pro cyclists race for home squad ORICA – AIS; the other nine riders are spread over six countries. Across the Tasman Sea, all Kiwi cyclists are racing with US or European teams. Latin American and African riders face little choice but to pack their bags and move away from home to chase their dreams.
Fortunately, cultural diversity is not the sole domain of any one team – 9 out of 38 women’s pro cycling teams recruit riders from three or more continents. Wiggle Honda leads the way in this respect, engaging riders from Oceania, Asia, America and Europe. [CiQ: note the Wiggle Honda riders from Australia and Japan – Wiggle’s two biggest international markets.] At the other end of the spectrum more than a quarter or all women’s teams recruit only domestic riders.
Zooming out, the global distribution trend of non-European female pro cyclists is evident. It really shouldn’t be a surprise that, given the number of contracts and teams based in Europe, only a handful of riders make it to the US. If there’s any conclusion to be drawn from this, it’s the same one that we reached for cycling as a whole – if bicycle industry trends are anything to go by, we need to see more Asian and Latin American teams to capitalise on cycling’s growth in those mega-regions.