How do We get Fairness in Women’s Cycling?

Words: Cycling Direct

During the Giro Rosa there were some tweets going around comparing the prize money at the Tour de France to that which is payable at the Giro Rosa, the men’s and women’s premier races. 

Naively we thought this cannot be correct and so some research was done, only to be shocked that it was correct! The premier women's race of the year pays an insulting level of prize money. 


Although there is always a call for equality between men and women’s sports a lot of time this is not correct for example man and women at Wimbledon should perhaps not be paid the same prize money as they play different games, best of three sets for the women but best of five for the men.


That is not equal but you will notice that this article title did not use the word equal, but fairness.


 If you look at these two premier races. Tour de France, 21 stages, 3404 kilometers, average stage 162 kilometers. Giro Rosa, eight stages, 808 kilometers, average stage length 101 kilometers. These are in no way equal and in my opinion would never demand equal prize money, but how can the Tour de France have a EU450,000 winners prize and the Giro Rosa EU 460 (Four Hundred and Sixty) more than 900 times less.


Women’s stages and one-day races are averagely 30 to 40% shorter than the men’s but EU460, even when the prizes for winning the stages and intermediate sprints are added into the equation, the 2013 highest payment was made to World Champion Marianne Vos with EU1743, winner Mara Abbot ended with less at EU1590. The top team money was to Rabobank Live Giant with EU2304.


It is not the organisers fault, they have kept the race going for 24 years, when all around women’s races are failing or being run under such shameful financial situations which the UCI fails to manage.


There is and old saying “a fair days pay for a fair days work” and this is most certainly not fair! The UCI need to look to a resolution to this urgently whilst there is still a women’s race scene going. Setting a minimum wage is the not the correct idea, the last thing a manager on a low budget team wants to worry about is paying his riders set minimums or not get his UCI licence as that will only create a situation where more riders are sacked.


So why it this huge differential? It is simple – Television. Who wants to sponsor women’s teams or races when you do not get live pictures? If sponsors put money in they want to see their names emblazoned across the kit and shown across the world. What does Giro Rosa get, an hour of highlights on RAI –Sport late in the evening, and it is geo-restricted so you can not watch in SA and a lot of other places outside Italy. Why would sponsors do that?


And what a race it is! Evelyn Stephens tweeted: Great crowds and a beautiful route, thanks @GiroRosa2013 for a great opening stage! And pictures from the start showed these great crowds and this trend continued for the whole tour. Great stages and crowds for all of the eight days.


Our UCI Presidential candidate Brian Cookson was at the Tour de France, do you think he or Pat McQuaid, the current UCI President, both of whom claim to want to do so much for women’s cycling, jumped the short distance across the border to have a look at what is actually happening at the Giro Rosa? The simple answer was no.


What should also be considered is the way the women are treated at races. In the ill fated Tour of Languedoc earlier in the year the riders were put up in a campsite, in the Giro Rosa, Ex British Champion Sharon Laws tweeted “Four of us in a room made for two! Would that happen at the TDF?”


It is also worth a look at the South African women’s scene, something that has been troubling for a while. In 2012 we had six riders competing overseas, we now have only one. At the end of 2012 we lost one of our biggest women’s teams, a financial judgment to meet that teams Pro Continental aspirations.


But we should worry about the road scene in SA as we do not seem to have the standard of racing any youngster needs to make that step up into Europe and for any rider to up and go off from their own auspices is almost impossible. So that is where the conundrum lies! Some of our good road racers have gone over to the “dark Side” of mountain bike racing and doing very well, but even some of these women having success are un-sponsored.


For the women racing in SA there is a real lack of support from the men, with a lot of criticism on how the women race, and that has also shown when organisers struggle to find suitable slot in the race for the Elite women.


It has got to the stage when some women riders seem unable to encourage new youngsters to take up road racing, but I do not see any supportive action from Cycling South Africa to remedy this. We certainly do not have a commission for women’s cycling like in Australia?


So where to? What is obvious is women’s racing need television. It is expensive to produce TV for a race, but when the filming is being done, like at the Giro Rosa, or when cameras are on site like for some of the spring classics why do we not get live pictures? When we do see a race, like the London Olympics or the Tour of Qatar earlier this year, we are treated to great attacking and entertaining cycling.


Is this not where the UCI should be using the YouTube channel that was so good for the World Track Championships if the local TV stations are unable or unwilling to assist?


Again we ask is it not time the UCI acted, not just to get these race televised but to sort out all of the issues in women's cycling?


Road Cycling