Rolf Hess, the Swiss entrepreneur who owns Hess Group International, revealed his ambitious vision for Hess Cycling Team, as he seeks a British licence to transform it into the UK’s first squad in the Women’s World Tour. Hess compared the project to the golden era of Team Sky/Ineos, helmed by Sir Dave Brailsford, which claimed seven Tour de France titles from 2012 to 2019. Hess is optimistic that his squad could emulate such a legacy in women’s cycling, specifically targetting consistent wins at the Tour de France Femmes.
Hess runs various businesses, including Carraigmore, an oil and gas producer. Despite potential scrutiny given the climate emergency, Hess also pointed out that his investment portfolio is diverse, featuring water purification and make-up companies among others. The entrepreneur foresees a ‘symbiotic relationship’ between his brands and the cycling team, stating that riders may be offered the chance to create personalised consumer products while also taking care of their educational needs.
With an initial budget of 750,000 euros and no sponsors, Hess aims to gradually increase this to around five million euros within five years, mostly from his own pocket before getting sponsors on board. He underlined the need for local UK partners, saying that he also wants to use his contacts in the Middle East, America, and China. The plan is to transition from their current status as a Luxembourg-registered team to acquire a UK licence from British Cycling in the coming weeks.
The team is already in the hiring process, with 17-year-old British cyclist Holly Ramsey among the first to be signed. Ramsey expressed her excitement about the environment that the Hess team aims to establish, describing it as the ideal space for her continued development. She will be joined by fellow Briton Alice McWilliam who raced for the team in 2023, with further announcements of the team roster expected soon.
Hess justified his focus on the rising trajectory of women’s cycling by highlighting its increased TV exposure and the reintroduction of the Tour de France Femmes. He pointed out that the sport is currently experiencing unprecedented growth, corroborated by the world governing body, UCI, which reported a spike in salaries, team budgets, and licence applications. Although The Cyclists Alliance also points out that this spike isn’t filtering down to all levels yet. In this landscape, the Hess team is planning to accrue enough points at the continental level in 2024 to apply for the World Tour, potentially entering the UCI’s new Women’s ProTeams level from 2025, which sits just below the Women’s WorldTour.