Women's cycling: with its new partner Suez, the FDJ aims for the heights

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The only French women’s team at the highest professional level, FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine intends to grow further, driven by its excellent performance this season and the arrival of a new co-partner: Suez, the environmental giant.

A new title sponsor on one side, an extension on the other and big ambitions. It was a shower of good news announced by the FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope women’s cycling team at a press conference in Paris on Monday 20 June.

“A feminist and inclusive commitment”

The first of these is the commitment of the Suez group, which specializes in environmental services, as a co-partner. Logical consequence of the arrival of a new title sponsor: the team changes its name and will henceforth take the name of FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope and will compete in the first women’s professional Tour de France under this name. From 2023, it will simply be called FDJ-Suez.

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“We are very proud to bring our stone to the building”, explains Sabrina Soussan, general manager of the Suez group.

Stéphane Pallez, CEO of La Française des Jeux (FDJ), announced at the same time the extension of his sponsorship of the team until 2025. “This is the continuation of the story and [l’arrivée de Suez]it’s proof that we’re not alone in believing in it”, he notes. “It’s also, let’s not be afraid of words, a feminist and inclusive commitment.”

World number 2 mid-season

The team is having a particularly prosperous year. At mid-season, the FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine, the only French team in the Women World Tour (the highest professional level), is in second place in the ranking of the International Cycling Union (UCI). The team obtained nine victories, including two prestigious ones on the classics of the women’s calendar – the Amstel Ladies and the Flèche Wallonne thanks to the Italian Marta Cavalli, as well as 30 podiums.

When announcing the partnership with Suez, Stephen Delcourt, the team’s manager, made a point of recalling the path traveled since the creation of the latter in 2006. “We should have died ten times”, likes repeat it. Despite everything, the team won a first title of champion of France in 2012 thanks to Marion Rousse, now director of the Tour de France Women.

“In 2017, when our economic model was running out of steam, the team was joined by the FDJ”, he underlines. An essential partnership which allows it to have the necessary solidity to win one of the eight Women World Tour licenses when it was created in 2020, despite, at the time, a status of 17e global team. The training project, the DNA of a social “company with a mission” and above all the guarantees offered in terms of minimum wage and maternity leave for riders have convinced the UCI.

Be able to follow the explosion of budgets

“The objective is to make the team one of the best in the world”, underlines Stephen Delcourt, insisting on the significance of seeing “two powerful brands from our country” investing in women’s cycling.

“For three years, the budgets of the Women’s WorldTour have increased by 20% each year, it’s huge, even if we start from very far,” added the team manager. “We will be able to follow this increase over the next three years and have visibility.”

Stephen Delcourt took the example of the French champion, Evita Muzic, 23, who signed a contract extension until 2025: “this is the first in a long series of extensions, we want to give them the ways to flourish and have visibility in their careers and also in their lives as women. With long contracts, we can imagine longer careers.”

As for the team’s cyclists, we salute the ever-increasing resources made available to them to be efficient. Arrived in 2020 at the FDJ, the Danish Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig measures the progress made: “women’s cycling is growing so quickly! We have more staff, we now have a team bus, a nutrition truck… It’s crazy!” , she enthuses.

Something to calmly consider the Tour de France Women, the first major professional loop in history which is due to start on July 23. Stephen Delcourt affirms it: his team will play nothing less than the general classification.

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