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From podium girls to pro riders - Sport Executive

From podium girls to pro riders

UCI is pedalling to reduce the equality gap in cycling.

From podium girls to pro riders
Poster: E3 Harelbeke

For as long as there have been professional riders in the peloton, there have been good looking podium girls in smart dresses standing beside the winners on the podium. Even in the year of our Lord 2015, a Belgian race organiser hired bikini-clad podium girls – to stand in front of the winners of the women’s event in the Flanders Diamond Tour.
It wasn’t so long ago that the podium girls were the only women who were visible in pro cycling. But ‘The Times They are a-Changin’, even in cycling – despite the dubious Belgian event. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has increased its focus on women’s cycling since Brian Cookson’s presidential campaign. And 2016 will be the year when women’s pro cycling expand world wide. UCI will thus introduce the Women’s WorldTour, with a total of 30 to 35 race days, focus on generating broader media coverage for women’s events, including on social media, and try to attract bigger sponsors.


“The 2015 calendar has seen the UCI Women Road World Cup return to the United States with the Philadelphia Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic in June. The globalisation of women’s road cycling is firmly underway with one-day or multi-stage races included in the UCI calendar across Europe, North and South America, Asia and Oceania,” UCI women’s cycling coordinator Andrea Marcellini says to Sport Executive.
“Important new races have been created, such as La Course by Le Tour organised by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which takes place just before the finish of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées. The Women’s Tour of Britain, the inaugural women’s Strade Bianche, Italy, and the new Women’s Tour of California, USA, which took place in May are also reflecting strong growth in media coverage and spectator interest.”
“Looking ahead, the number of women’s races on the UCI International Calendar stands at 80 – the highest number ever.  All of the above confirm the growth of women’s cycling and our role is to ensure that the right structure is in place so that the growth is sustainable.”


“We have also made unprecedented investment in the broadcasting of rounds of the UCI Women Road World Cup. 20 broadcasters such as Eurosport, the BBC, Canal+ and RAI covered events watched by 15 million viewers worldwide. The images produced have also been broadcast on the UCI’s YouTube channel attracting 300,000 viewers, a 40 per cent increase over the year. Our @UCIWomenCycling Twitter account exceeded 10,000 followers and has become an important vehicle for the promotion of women’s cycling. The increased media exposure should have a positive impact on the economics of the sport, making sponsorship more attractive and bringing more stability to teams and events,” Andrea Marcellini explains.

No minimum salary

In other words: UCI is trying to professionalise women’s cycling. The next step will be requirements for elite teams from 2017 in regard to salaries, the number of riders, support staff, team doctors and sport directors.
“With all women’s cycling stakeholder we’re working on a solid financial base for the growth of the sport. We propose the establishment of a new teams structure to be gradually introduced from 2016 onwards aiming to increase their professionalism. The ultimate goal of everything that is being done is to secure a healthy, attractive and financially viable sport for women,” Andrea Marcellini says.


So UCI is working hard for equality. And not just for the elite:
“We have recently done a survey with our National Federations and found that over 70 per cent either have or is interested in putting in place a dedicated program for women’s cycling. Our plan is to work with these Federations to optimize existing programs and help them develop new ones,” Andrea Marcellini says.
“The UCI is also committed to ensuring that there is a large pool of young riders ready to take over from the current Elite athletes. Many young women are among the athletes who train at the UCI’s World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland. Women count for one quarter of the 1000 trainees formed at the Centre since its opening in 2002. A number of the WCC’s former trainees have gone on to shine at World Championships and Olympic Games, not least track cyclists Great Britain’s Victoria Pendleton (double Olympic Champion – 2008 and 2012 – and nine world titles). As more opportunities for women’s racing develop, the WCC has added an all-women’s coaching course to its Coaching Development Programme; these now qualified coaches can now give expert coaching advice to young athletes in their own countries, thus raising the level of women’s cycling even further,” Andrea Marcellini says to Sport Executive.


Andrea Marcellini and her colleagues in UCI are pedalling to reduce the equality gap in cycling. So maybe the scantily clad podium girls will finally become a relic of the past?



Our strategy for women’s cycling stands on four pillars:

The UCI to be recognised as a leader among International Federations in its work in women’s sport and participation

Help facilitate a financially sustainable professional sport for women

Encourage and promote the participation of women of all ages and all levels in cycling as a sport and activity, rectifying any imbalance

Develop the role of women throughout the governance of the sport.


The Women’s WorldTour will be introduced in 2016 – with a total of 30 to 35 race days.

From 2017, a two-tiered division of teams will be implemented.

The top level will include ten teams, all of which will be required to race in all WorldTour events.

Regulations will be rolled out over a four-year period (2017-2020) and include rules around salaries, the number of riders on a roster, support staf- to-rider ratio, team doctors and sport director training.

There is talks about teams being required to pay a minimum salary, as is the requirement in men’s cycling. However it is still just talk. One proposal says that at least two riders in a top level team should have a minimum salary.

There is still a lot of discussion about developing women’s cycling by: Expanding live streaming and television coverage of women’s events. Encouraging the UCI, teams, riders and race organizers to use social media to amplify the coverage. Attracting bigger sponsors to women’s cycling.

Source: UCI