Pauline Ferrand-Prévot will test Ineos’ true commitment to women’s cycling

Multiple world champion on the market with new agent and road return on the horizon

Clock10:30, Friday 9th February 2024

© UCI Mountain Bike World Series

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot has raced a dedicated mountain biking programme for the last few seasons

This week’s news that Pauline Ferrand-Prévot had recruited the services of SEG Cycling effectively put Ineos Grenadiers on notice for 2025.

The Dutch-based agency represents some of the biggest names in the sports of cycling and football, and with Ferrand-Prévot’s Ineos contract expiring at the end of the season it’s clear from SEG’s arrival that she is willing to listen to rival teams before embarking on an rumoured return to road racing after the Paris Olympics.

Read more: Pauline Ferrand-Prévot: I would like to do the Tour de France Femmes one year

The problem for Ineos Grenadiers is that no matter how much money or technical support they throw at the French rider, they lack the one thing she will truly need next year: a devoted road team built around her ambitions.

For a team that has been routinely asked about the possible development of a women’s squad since their Team Sky inception in 2010, this is judgement day. Will they back one of the most talented female riders of all time or will they pass up on their best chance yet to kick-start a women’s programme? The next three or four months will decide everything.

Out of contract at the end of the year, there will be no shortage of suitors when it comes to Ferrand-Prévot's signature. Just like Tom Pidcock, Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, the 31-year-old is one of those rare golden ticket athletes who ticks every box, and for a bike manufacturer, she is a dream come true.

It’s impossible not to envisage teams like Movistar — who are backed by Canyon — or Canyon-SRAM, who Ferrand-Prévot rode for between 2017 and 2020 — being interested, as a brand with a heavy multi-disciplinary presence, while several other teams would also enter the fray for a team leader of Ferrand-Prévot’s calibre.

For now, time is on Ineos’ side but they only have a finite frame in which to act. Recruitment of teammates to supplement Ferrand-Prévot shouldn’t be a problem, especially with the women’s market flooded with out-of-contract talent for 2025. Pinarello already supply bikes to high-profile women’s teams and Ineos hardly lack the finances to get a project up and running by the time Ferrand-Prévot dusts herself down from the Olympics in Paris this August and makes a decision on her future.

Read more: Pinarello enters Women's WorldTour for first time with Roland Cycling

Along with the necessary finances, Ineos also have a strong and existing relationship with the rider. Ferrand-Prévot’s recruitment to the team in 2022 changed the landscape of the team from an entirely male-orientated squad to an organisation that at least recognised the potential on offer in women’s cycling. Ferrand-Prévot’s arrival suggested that the team had the notion of laying the groundwork for a genuine women's team.

Sadly for fans of women’s cycling, and cycling fans in general, that hasn’t materialised at this moment in time, and while medals have poured in with Ferrand-Prévot’s success and Pinarello has invested in a brand new mountain bike, Ineos has remained on the fence when it comes to long-term commitment.

Read more: Tom Pidcock and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot’s new Pinarello Dogma XC revealed

With Ferrand-Prévot out of contract at the end of 2024, the Ineos management finds themselves at the precipice because they can either cement their place in the women’s sport with a fully-fledged team based around one of the best riders in the world or walk away. What’s clear is that they’re unlikely to have such a great opportunity in the near future.

“They have the ambition and the intention to have one but we’re in February 2024 so to have a team on the road in 2025 means that you need to start working on things very fast. The intention is to continue to build around her but the reality is that there’s no team right now,” Martijn Berkhout, who is leading the SEG project behind Ferrand-Prévot, told GCN.

The Dutch agent has worked with Ineos Grenadiers riders several times over the year, and he recently placed Tobias Foss there over the winter. He and SEG also have a strong women’s roster, with Kristen Faulkner one of their biggest names.

According to Berkhout, Ferrand-Prévot wants stability around her and a project that will support her ambitions. Ineos have everything they need to make that happen. It’s just a choice as to whether they seize this chance or not.

“Women’s cycling is getting more professional and if you are as big as Ineos then it’s not difficult to set up a team,” Berkhout added.

“They have everything in place but you need a good plan and you need to do some recruitment. We’ll give them the time to do that and how they can facilitate her next step on the road but at the same time, we need to look at her options because I think that every team in the world should be interested in Pauline. She wants a team that will give her long-term commitments so that she can transition back to the road and really build a project.”

For more news and analysis from women's racing, visit our women's racing page.

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