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."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.