The UCI formally announced its long-awaited reforms for women’s cycling, and The Cyclists’ Alliance is excited to share the possibilities with you. Your voice has helped the Alliance to influence many of these reforms, and we believe these are the first big steps of positive changes for our sport.
The Alliance is proud to have contributed to the framework of fair working conditions the UCI will adopt. Iris Slappendel and our esteemed colleague and adviser, Marianne Vos, have represented the women’s peloton in these decisions as members of the UCI’s Women’s World Tour and Road commissions (since the UCI does not yet recognize any association as representing the women in cycling, both women contributed these suggestions from you in the capacity of their individual roles).
The Important Changes
Our first focus has been on the ethical requirements and minimum working conditions, to build a better foundation for our sport. Iris presented a short-list of the most-important ethical and working conditions that the women’s peloton would like to see enforced soon as possible: better insurance, contract integrity, proper reimbursement of our expenses, maternity leave, support of qualified staff members, and minimum course safety standards.
We are happy to see most of these points will be enforced in this reform package. While there are many other important new changes, the most significant regulation will be for the proposed Women’s WorldTour teams: the first minimum salary in our sport. Additionally, we will have a two-tier racing system that guarantees the best teams are at the best races, but also the lower-level teams can compete and develop talent and gain experience to become WWT-capable organizations.
The total package of reforms may be controversial in one way: some teams may not have the budget yet to join the new racing tiers. From a competitive and athlete advocacy position, it is difficult to balance between not impacting some participants in this sport, and bringing it to a new and more professional level. We believe the sum of these changes are a huge step for women’s cycling, especially to finally have a minimum salary and guarantees for our working conditions. While it is difficult, the Alliance does not like to see teams disappear.
We have been worried about the different levels in investment and professionalism in our teams, even also inside individual teams. We think it was very important to have the team registration process changed to go through the UCI, and this is something Marianne and the Alliance has been pushing for this since the very beginning of our journey. Federations have all had different measures and it’s very easy for teams to ‘hop’ from country to country, which has allowed some forms of mismanagement to continue without proper oversight. This way, rider contracts and team organization will be audited by an external firm and will be measured and accountable in a consistent way.
We believe that the future of the top level WWT is not about the quantity of teams, but the quality. We are aware that probably only a few teams are able to meet all the new regulations at first, but these few teams will set the bar. In a competitive sporting atmosphere like ours, we believe this change will be a call to action for other teams to step up their game and reach for the same bar, and also, bring more professionalism into our sport’s sponsor investment model.
The multiple tiers of racing will help to differentiate the levels of development in our sport, and help to provide clearer pathways for women to enter a professional racing career and move up as her career progresses. We believe there will be some difficulties in implementing the format, but we can help by providing rider feedback at all levels of the sport through our diverse membership, and the lessons we learn from participants in our rider mentoring program.
We Can Shape The Future Together
A minimum wage is an important step, but it is also important to realize that wages are negotiated between workers and employers. We see an initial wage as a first ‘line in the sand’ that the top teams can manage at this time in the growth of women’s professional-level racing. We will work with all of the teams and the UCI to shape the economic and fan outreach strategies so that as the sport increases in popularity and profitability, the women can enjoy more earning power and negotiate better salaries in the future.
Whatever amount is set for the new minimum salary, it is a starting point that we can work from in our future negotiations. That is one of the most important reasons we formed The Cyclists’ Alliance – to make sure that the athletes have a voice in shaping their future and improving their career opportunities.
We are also happy that the UCI is understanding the stance women have on Olympic participation. We published our position on the Tokyo road race recently. We know that women’s racing fields are growing faster, and are becoming more diverse because of our depth of talent, but only having a field size that is half of the men’s size is not equitable. Equality of opportunity is one of our founding principles, and we believe the additional Olympic reforms will help to reinforce this movement towards parity in our racing careers, and also the future earning potential for women racing in the future.
The Reforms Are Thanks to YOU!
These objectives were obtained directly from the women’s peloton by speaking with you, and through your participation in our independent surveys. Your concerns about these contractual conditions, and the level of support you receive, have helped us to convince the UCI how these factors affect your careers and personal well-being. These improvements are critical stepping stones to having universal safer working conditions, fair treatment, and stronger economic guarantees for the women racing today in the future.
In all, the reforms provide a clearer vision of a sporting body that is starting to listen to its women competitors, and seizing the opportunity to make the sport stronger for the athletes, more exciting and engaging to its globally connected fans, and to have a foundation in place for even more growth in the future. And as your advocate, we will play our part to help shape that future with their voice at the meeting table.
So what do you as a rider and member of The Alliance think of these changes? Write us at (emails) and let us know! Your voice is what made many of these changes possible, and will continue to guide us as we fight to build a better sport in the future!