British Cycling president Brian Cookson says that the governing body’s success in producing talented female cyclists is something he will seek to replicate at global level if elected president of the UCI in September.
Cookson and current UCI president Pat McQuaid were confirmed earlier this week as the only two candidates nominated for the election, which will see 42 delegates vote at the UCI Congress in Florence on 27 September.
On Wednesday evening Cookson, who had been at the opening days of the Tour de France, was in Yorkshire for the Otley Cycle Races, which this year featured a women’s race for the first time.
The winner, Elinor Barker, winner of the junior time trial at the world championships in the Netherlands last September, is a product of the very system that Cookson believes can provide the template for women’s cycling around the world.
The Cardiff born 19-year-old partnered Laura Trott and Dani King to successfully defend Great Britain’s team pursuit world title on the track in Minsk earlier this year. She also rides alongside them on the road at Wiggle Honda.
“It was fantastic to see so many female riders compete in Otley,” said Cookson.
“British Cycling is working hard to develop women’s racing in Great Britain in a way that provides the sport with a solid, self-sufficient platform from which to develop.
“This is about bringing wholesale change to the calendar and embedding women’s cycling in everything we do as an organisation.
“It is important to recognise that initiatives such as this are not one-sided and can bring huge advantages to both the organisation and the sport.”
He outlined how he planned to raise the profile of women’s cycling at the top level.
“Increasing the number of events on the race calendar and having men’s and women’s major events running alongside each other provides a wider platform for promoting high-level domestic racing, and better leverage when it comes to negotiating with broadcast companies, sponsors and promoters alike.
“More coverage for the event, brings wider exposure to women’s cycling and in turn better prospects for the future.”
Besides promoting equal opportunities in terms of racing and prize money for senior elite women’s riders, Cookson believes their should be more parity among younger riders looking to progress in the sport.
“It is clear to me that equality should exist between young female riders and their male counterparts and the UCI must to do more to provide greater opportunities for female riders to progress.
“It’s no secret that women’s cycling is the poor relation of the men’s sport, but in Britain we are starting to see the first signs of a recovery and although there is a long way to go, I’m very optimistic that the principles introduced are relevant to a wider, global audience via the UCI.”
While Cookson's comments today are confined to the competitive side of cycling, the body he currently presides over, British Cycling, has commited to get 1 million more women in the UK cycling by 2020, whether for commuting, leisure, or racing.
He says that if he wins September's election and becomes president of the UCI, he is "committed to creating a women’s cycling commission, appoint at least one woman on every UCI Commission, create new events for women riders and guarantee a minimum wage for women pro road riders with modern terms of employment."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.