In it’s “commitment to reinforcement of the professionalisation of women’s road cycling” the UCI have announced a two-tier system in women’s cycling, as well as a minimum salary from 2020, a move strongly welcomed by former rider and Cyclist’s Alliance co-founder Iris Slappendel.
From 2020, there will be Women’s WorldTeams and Women’s Continental Teams. Those with a WorldTeam status will compete in UCI Women’s WorldTour events, and in a restructuring, the UCI will also introduce ProSeries events, as well as Class 1 and Class 2 races.
The world governing body have also committed to conducting a thorough examination of all the athlete’s contracts by a financial audit and consultancy firm, in a bid to bring the women’s arm of the sport in line with the model that already exists in the men’s peloton.
This announcement is driven by the UCI’s Agenda 2022 which seeks to fully address the position of women in cycling – both in the sport and in governance.
This policy includes the equalisation of prize money, the “increased attractiveness” of the UCI Women’s WorldTour and UCI women’s teams, equal access for women and men to UCI competitions and the Olympic Games after the differences between peloton sizes at Tokyo 2020, and ensuring women are in positions of responsibility in the governance domain.
UCI President David Lappartient commented: “I welcome this fundamental development for women’s cycling and the strengthening of the position of women in our sport’s governance, two subjects which are among the central points of the UCI’s Agenda 2022. The decisions taken today increase the professionalisation of this sector by drawing inspiration from, but adapting appropriately, from the model that led men’s professional road cycling to become one of the most popular sports in the world.”
Slappendel, former rider and now part of the UCI Women’s WorldTour Commission, saw the announcement as a hugely positive step for women’s cycling.
Speaking to Voxwomen, she said: “I am happy with these reforms and have been part of the discussions to implement them, with input directly from the women’s peloton.
“The most important thing for me, and I don’t even think the riders know what a big step this will be, is that the teams will be registered to the UCI, and not to national federations. From an ethical perspective this is big. There are lots of issues within teams, and difference between national federations. There will now be a far greater overview – better regulations for insurance, contracts and minimum working conditions will improve.
“This was one of the biggest asks from the women’s peloton through my work with the Cyclist’s Alliance. If teams are breaching contracts, there should be a follow-up action. That is the most important thing to create a safe and professional environment.
“There will be people critical of these reforms, and it will be very hard for teams to be WorldTour and to step up. But it’s a necessary step and we have start somewhere. It is up to those teams to step up their game to be part of it.”