TCA year 2018 in review: THE MISSION HAS JUST STARTED!

Just one year ago, we embarked on an exciting and uncertain journey with you by formally announcing The Cyclists’ Alliance. Our sport is changing rapidly, as new fans discover our racing and see that we are among the best athletes in the world, with an exciting mix of traditional races and brand-new events around the world. This has sparked rapid investment, more media focus, and opportunities for growth in all disciplines of women’s cycling. Our sport is telling amazing stories through our racing, your bright personalities, and is inspiring a new generation of riders.

We created the Alliance to represent the career interests of all women in competitive cycling, because rapid change also demands the preservation of your athlete’s rights and career opportunities. Gracie, Carmen, and I took on the responsibility to start this movement because we saw how we could put our current and past experiences in women’s elite and professional-level cycling to work for you and for our sport – creating a new alignment with our fellow stakeholders in the sport to make sure your voice is heard, and that your unique needs as a female professional are upheld in a global sport.

It all started with you. Our first surveys in 2017 gave you the opportunity to tell us what you were experiencing as a sporting professional, and to also tell us what you need to perform at your very best as an athlete and a career-focused professional woman. This information helped us to develop a platform and strategy which has influenced many changes in the sport in just a short time. 

Our recommendations helped to shape the emerging UCI Regulation changes for women’s cycling, which are helping to better define our sport as a unique entity. The minimum salary will be an ongoing change on which we will continue to provide input, so that economic growth is sustainable and rewarding. Changes in your minimum insurance requirements will help you to be secure as you train and prepare throughout the season. And the new rules for maternity leave – a right that we lobbied for from the very start – are now in place so that you can choose to have a family if you want, and not lose out on your career opportunities because you exercise this basic human right.

However, the improved Ethics Codes are one of the most important changes we have helped to shape. The personal experiences you have shared with us, both good and bad, led us to make specific recommendations to the UCI and your national governing bodies regarding how to handle complaints, and why certain processes had to change to protect the rights of all participants. In the future, you have more options for reporting issues, and there is now stronger enforcement of codes of conduct to make sure everyone treats each other professionally – and safely – throughout the elite sport.

We started our mentoring initiative, called TCAMP (The Cyclists’ Alliance Mentorship Program) in early 2018, and we are proud to announce that we created 10 pairings of experienced professionals with newer racers. This will help to share best practices and champion insights that inspire emerging pros to focus on the improvements that could shape them into the next stars of our sport.

“Negotiating with teams can be quite daunting and stressful, but to have a mentor that I could ask questions and who could offer guidance made me a little more confident in what I was doing,” said Lauretta Hanson. “Next year is big year for me, transitioning from a primarily American race calendar to a European race calendar. This relationship has made me much more confident going forward.” 

Ellen van Dijk is a TCAMP mentor. “This is a great idea from The Cyclists’ Alliance. By sharing experiences between riders from different teams we can use our knowledge in the best possible way. It is very satisfying to help each other, so not every rider has to reinvent the wheel.”

We created a standard contract template to help our members to negotiate with their teams, which many riders have used to understand what to ask for, and how to structure, a proper professional contract. And with the help of our legal support, we helped a few riders to obtain a release from their bad contracts and start over again in a better team situation.

“The Alliance may exist only one year, but has meant a lot in our sport already,” said member and trusted adviser Marianne Vos. “Riders know where to go with their legal or contractual questions, and know their interests will be defended.”

There was so much positive feedback from the riders by the middle of 2018 that we performed a Team Culture survey, to create a knowledge base for riders to find the best fit for their career objectives. We also opened our membership to allwomen in competitive racing disciplines. Whether you are a mountain biker, cyclocrosser, track or road rider, your voice can shape our sport, and we can work together to build a brighter future.

We implemented many new benefits for our members in 2018. From a legal perspective, we were able to connect many riders to legal aid in our network to mediate difficult problems. Many riders were not being paid, others were not being raced appropriately, some were being forced to race with injuries, and others were improperly terminated without cause. There were also equipment disputes, and some riders never received their proper share of prize winnings. While we cannot name the riders due to confidentiality (you know who you are!), many were able to receive their salaries, obtain contract releases, retain or return equipment, and better understand their rights as professional women. 

And we have assisted several riders with arbitration proceedings, to more strongly position their interests in an ongoing legal framework.

“Sometimes you don't know you need help until you’re in a sticky situation,” said Alison Jackson of her experiences. “When I had a dispute with my professional team I had no idea what rights I had or who to contact or how I could help myself. The Alliance was my starting point, they knew who to contact and how to fight for me and walked with me step by step. I am a huge supporter of TCA because they stand for up for true sport and integrity within our sport.”

We have also brought forward other benefits, like our relationships with SVL Insurance and Sportnutrix. SVL has graciously created a supplemental insurance program just for women, and is offering financial pension planning to help you invest your hard-earned salary. Judith Haudum of Sportnutrix is offering her services to members of the Alliance, independent of cycling teams, for anyone that is struggling with nutrition, weight-management, and related health topics. 

Judith will be present at several races to offer body measurement and free consultation for TCA members.

“There is not good training without a good diet,” said Rosella Ratto about the nutrition program Haudum created with her. “With the support of Judith I could perform better during races too, getting my body focused only on cycling rather than digesting useless things.”

Haudum can be contacted by members outside of the normal racing schedule, and now is the perfect time for you to join the Alliance and benefit from her advice! And even more benefits will be presented in the coming months for our members. 

As a reminder, all of TCA’s funding comes only from member fees and donations so far, and all our work on your behalf is voluntary. We are truly thankful for the help of our partners like Velotutor (website development and marketing) and Staywise (legal advice), as well as our cooperation with EU Athletes and UNI World Players Association – both of whom have been invaluable resources and teachers for our ongoing mission to support you. 

We made great strides in just one year, but we know our journey together is just beginning as more fans demand racing coverage, and sponsors and race organizers see the amazing marketing potential in women’s competitive cycling. We will be here every step of the way to make sure your careers are more rewarding, safer, and with the kind of opportunities and career support that you deserve. If you aren’t a member of the Alliance yet, please consider joining today to unlock the benefits, and to be part of a collective movement to shape the future of our sport.

Thank you! – Iris, Gracie, and Carmen

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