UCI President, Brian Cookson, has said that a minimum wage for professional women cyclists could prove counterproductive at the current time. He argues that were one imposed, a number of teams currently presenting themselves as being professional would re-register as amateur and pay their riders nothing at all.
Last month, Britain’s top female road rider, Lizzie Armitstead, had said:
“I think before we talk about having a three-week Tour de France, which has been a massive talking point this year, we need to talk about the professionalism of it.
“You can't expect a woman who's holding down a part-time job to train for the biggest race in the world. She has to have a minimum wage and I think it's something that is pretty crazy that we don't have that.”
But Cookson argues that such a move could prove counterproductive. Speaking to The Guardian at an event at the Rapha store in Manchester on Thursday, he said:
“The women who have been involved in the Women’s Road Commission have told me that the result of that would not be 500 women suddenly being paid the minimum wage; they’ve told me that actually most of the teams that currently present themselves as professional teams would fold or re-register as amateur teams, so they wouldn’t end up paying those women anything at all anyway.”
However, Cookson did go on to say that a minimum wage remains ‘an important objective’. He suggests a scenario where women’s cycling is divided into two divisions – one genuinely professional and with a minimum wage and then a lower level which would not offer that.
He also feels that women’s races could be made harder and longer to make them more exciting to ride and watch.
“There is no reason why women’s road races should not be harder and longer. Most women’s races are well within the distances in the regulations and it’s certainly something that we could look at.”
He says that he favours a one-week women’s Tour de France rather than a three-week event run parallel to the men’s.
“I would like to see a week-long women’s Tour de France – a challenging event, some mountain stages and so on. I think these things need to be changed incrementally.”