Are you a fan of women’s pro cycling? Do you find inspiration in the athleticism and dedication of those who compete at the highest level of the sport? Or maybe La Course, the recent, inaugural women’s Tour de France stage race, grabbed your attention?

Then join the club — the Project X club.

Velocio Sports, owner of team Specialized-lululemon, has launched an innovative crowd-funding campaign, Project X, to keep this extraordinary group of athletes together for the 2015 racing season, as the team seeks new corporate sponsorship to replace contracts that end this year. Contributors become club members, or part-owners, if you will, with access to exclusive information and opportunities that place them inside the world of women’s pro cycling.

“I want to do something different to create excitement,” says team owner Kristy Scrymgeour. “People want to get involved and this way they can be involved in ways they’ve never been before.” Learn more here:

Known for their distinctive racing kits, their representation of their countries in the 2012 Olympic games and their reign as World Time Trial champions, team Specialized-lululemon is among the leading professional cycling teams in the world. And as fellow New Yorkers know, it’s home to Evelyn Stevens, a champion of women’s cycling in every sense of the word, who got her start in racing, after a career on Wall Street, here in the Big Apple.

The campaign is directed at funding required to keep a women’s pro cycling team competitive at the top level of the sport. That takes $1.4 million, a sum that, by the way, in most cases totals one fifteenth of what it takes to run a men’s pro tour team.

Forging Connections to Grow the Sport

But, there’s more to this than raising money, says Scrymgeour. Project X creates a direct link between recreational cyclists and the team, and by building a fan base helps create exposure to grow the sport.

This is a moment in women’s cycling that’s full of promise. La Course by Le Tour de France women’s stage race on the final day of this year’s Tour was one important step toward gaining the kind of media spotlight that women’s pro cycling needs to grow, attract a broader following and the develop the stars of tomorrow.

Project X is the latest example of the resourcefulness that women have shown in taking the future of the sport into their own hands. The La Course race itself was the result of a committed group of women from the cycling world, including the eventual winner of the race Marianne Vos, launching a petition drive that garnered more than 97,000 signatures.

Successful Funding Model

Crowd-funding of sponsorship may be new to cycling right now, but similar efforts have been used successfully by soccer clubs around the world. In the U.S., the Green Bay Packers pro football team enlists fans as “owners.”

And, as Leah Flickinger notes in a recent blog post for Bicycling Magazine, the shakiness of corporate support for pro cycling, as seen in this case, is nothing new.

“While it’s tempting to point fingers at a lack of industry and organizational support for women’s racing, sponsorship in professional cycling is notoriously tenuous,” Flickinger writes. “Team owners and riders often scramble for new backing and contracts from season to season.”

In fact, team Specialized-lululemon was born out of a commitment to keep a women’s team together after sponsorship collapsed in 2011 for both the men’s and women’s HTC-Highroad pro team, of which Scrymgeour was marketing and communications director at the time.

Scrymgeour says the campaign has received “great initial response and feedback.”

“The cycling community loves the idea and we have some initial interest from sponsors,” she says.

Please join me in supporting Project X by clicking here!

Photo: Robertson/Velodramatic

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