The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA) has released the results of its annual rider survey, which revealed the three main areas of concern in women’s professional cycling – wages, safety and live coverage.
The sixth edition of the survey, conducted in June 2023, received 140 unique athlete responses, according to TCA. The survey asked 40 questions from female professional and elite cyclists, covering several key topics including employment and income, education, team environment and professional support.
The association noted that the survey results represent riders from thirty-one countries competing in six disciplines. Additionally, survey responses represent at least four hundred and twenty seasons of competitive experience.
Wages were the main concern among those who responded to the survey who do not have a contract for the Women’s World Teams. Currently, only teams among the top tier of women’s cycling are required to pay their riders a minimum wage.
The UCI introduced minimum salaries for Women’s World Teams in 2020 and these have increased to €32,102 (employed) / €52,647 (self-employed) in 2023. The salary structure now includes a minimum salary for neo-professionals of €26,849 (employed) / €44,032 (freelancers).
There are currently 59 continental teams that are not required to pay riders a minimum wage, although some of them do. Among the second-tier teams, riders who responded to the survey said they were “struggling to make ends meet”.
- Two out of five riders are not paid at all by their team
- One in five riders is paid less than €5,000 gross per year
- One in five riders is paid between 10,000 and 20,000 euros
- Only about 15% of respondents receive a salary that meets or exceeds the mandatory minimum wage for an employee of €32,102
Survey respondents indicated that “financial reasons” continued to be the number one reason most women consider leaving the sport earlier than planned.
This means that nearly a third of survey respondents work a second job while performing their contractual positions as professional cyclists, while less than half can rely on cycling as their only paid work. A third of survey respondents also study while competing.
The survey also revealed that a quarter of respondents reimburse their team for expenses including mandatory UCI medicals, flights and accommodation for races and bike repair and maintenance. Additionally, for those survey respondents in groups affiliated with men’s groups, only 36% have access to the same resources and 21% have no access at all.
The first part of the survey results was released on the eve of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift where seven of the 22 teams were Continental, and therefore not obliged to pay their riders a guaranteed minimum wage. The TCA estimated, based on its research findings, that around 20% of Tour de France Femmes participants were not earning a living wage.
TCA’s annual survey enables the association to obtain data and track changes in professional cycling. This data is used to shed light on key issues and problems, which it aims to solve for riders. It has stated that the full report for the 2023 annual survey will be published in September 2023.
Security was revealed to be the second biggest concern among respondents to TCA’s annual survey.
In addition, the investigation found that some riders were not operating in a safe working environment, citing poor management of concussions or insufficient levels of professionalism by staff.
There have been several examples this year where the peloton and riders have been put in unsafe situations while racing. In March, the three-day Tour Féminin des Pyrénées was canceled after two stages due to safety concerns.
The opening phase was marred by a number of dangerous incidents, including oncoming traffic on the race course and parked cars blocking roads elsewhere.
In the second stage, the peloton staged a protest, with repeated eliminations reducing stage 2 to a hill climb to Hautacam, where Marta Cavalli (FDJ-Suez) took victory and the leader’s jersey.
The final stage of the race did not take place after many teams withdrew and decided not to start. The UCI then took steps to cancel the event to maintain the safety of the competitors.
Safety issues were raised again at the Tour de France Femmes, a photographer’s motorbike touched a rider and passed the riders during stage 4 in Rodez. The incident happened on a narrow road, when two motorbikes tried to pass the breakaway.
The UCI then announced that SD Worx team manager Danny Stam had been disqualified from the Tour de France before stage 6. In this incident, the UCI cited the dangerous nature of Stam’s driving when passing other cars and riders during stage 5 while bringing Demi Vollering back into the field after a flat tyre. Vollering received a 20 second penalty.
Survey respondents also cited live streaming of events as the third key concern among the women’s peloton.
The sport has made significant strides in recent years to bring more visibility to women’s races, particularly after the UCI made 45 minutes of live coverage a requirement to be part of the 2020 Women’s World Tour.
The Giro d’Italia was downgraded to the 2.Pro series in 2021 because it did not provide the required live television the previous year, but returned to the Women’s World Tour in 2022.
Other races have also struggled to meet live broadcast demands with the RideLondon Classique temporarily stripped of its top-class license to offer limited television last year. The event is back this year with a full live streaming package.
Some races also offered live coverage but missed important moments, such as Paris-Roubaix Femmes where coverage started after the first cobbles sector, while other events had insufficient coverage during key stages and races.
Live streaming has been one of the biggest viewership drivers in women’s racing over the past three seasons, and fans of the sport now expect and expect live coverage of all the top sporting events, as well as the lower-level events in the Pro Series and .1 racing.
The Tour de France Femmes is an example of how much an event, teams, riders and fans can gain from quality live broadcasting and eventing. Last year, in its first edition of the revamped women’s Tour, it attracted an average live audience of 2.9 million and overall and the race achieved a cumulative live audience of 23.2 million.
The TCA released the second part of its sixth annual survey on August 15 and it highlighted the need for increased professionalism in women’s cycling.
The survey revealed that 29% of respondents did not believe their team was managed in a professional manner. Furthermore, only 45% of the riders who responded to the survey confirmed that their team provided them with opportunities to improve their race performance.
Since the launch of the Women’s World Tour in 2016, steps have been taken to add a two-tier team system, minimum salaries for top players, maternity leave, live television for top-tier events and new protection structures. in increasing the professionalism of the sport.
Earlier in August, the UCI announced some new decisions in favor of the professionalism of women’s cycling and commitments to a fairer and safer sport.
The two major steps involved the membership of women’s professional road cycling bodies into the Professional Cycling Council (PCC), which will be, in part, responsible for preparing the ever-growing calendars.
At the recent UCI World Championships, elite women’s race medalists spoke about the mental stress of cycling with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Demi Vollering stressing the need for balance with a busy calendar.
It also includes the approval of the creation of a second division of women’s professional teams – ProTeams. The introduction of this division, placed between the existing Women’s World Teams (1st division) and Women’s Continental Teams (to become 3rd division), was originally planned for the 2026 season, but was moved to 2025.
The TCA said in the second part of its investigation that it welcomes the two commitments made by the UCI to further professionalize women’s cycling.
“Professionalism in sport is supported not just by wages and contracts but by raising standards in all aspects of the sport – from working conditions, staff qualifications and the day-to-day team environment, to the equipment to do the job and the organization of calendar games,” the association said.
The sport’s governing body also announced two new steps taken in the Cycling Integrity program launched in 2022, with the approval of two documents, entitled “UCI Safeguarding Policy” and “Safeguarding: UCI Toolkit for Cycling Stakeholders”.
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