B&B Hotels women team still notionally going ahead but deadline looms

The B&B Hotels story has occupied most of the early part of this cycling off-season. Particularly driven on the men’s side by the destination of Mark Cavendish ahead of the 2023 Tour de France, for the new women’s team led by Audrey Cordon-Ragot there are also potential pitfalls.

Since the confirmation in May that the city of Paris would be joining the team as a sponsor, albeit with no additional budget, questions have been raised about where the supposed extra increase would be coming from. Recent months have seen the team backtrack on a scheduled presentation with riders like Cavendish and Cordon-Ragot strongly rumoured but never officially confirmed on the team. Jérôme Pineau today confirmed that the downturn in the world’s economy has seen sponsors backtrack on their commitments and leave the team looking for last-minute solutions.

Pineau suggests that there are 5 companies he is awaiting answers from, with deadlines set for the final week in November. For him, this is the final piece in the puzzle with rider contracts ready to go, the original named sponsor B&B Hotels is still committed and now just this last influx of sponsor money is required to boost the men’s team, create a women’s team and a development team. A worst-case scenario would see the team miss the deadline to join the men’s ProTeam level and have to resort to the lower Continental level instead. A situation that the current sponsor B&B Hotels probably won’t acquiesce to, particularly as it removes them entirely from being able to get the all-important Tour de France wildcard.

If all these companies come back with negative responses, it is likely we will see the team backtrack to potentially the situation it has been in for the last few years. That would mean no women’s team and a number of riders available last minute with not many spaces left on other high-level teams. We have already seen the signing of Lizzie Holden to UAE Team ADQ who was rumoured to be joining the B&B Hotels project. Australian Chloe Hosking is another rider rumoured to be joining B&B Hotels in 2023.

That situation is in flux and whilst everything may still all work out ok, it is not guaranteed. Other women’s teams are keeping roles available just in case the riders re-join the transfer market. So some may still be able to find WWT spots even in December. Ultimately though, there are potentially going to be riders and staff members who miss out.

Sure. As far as I know, [Audrey Cordon-Ragot] has not signed elsewhere even if some would like it. We always really want to work with her. Contrary to what is said, I never released the girls, I did not ask them to look for another team.

Jérôme Pineau