Andrea Marcellini, the UCI Women's Cycling Coordinator, recently attended the Tour of California. Marcellini was there to gauge if the race would be a fit for the UCI's new women's series.
"I came to see what these guys are doing," said Marcellini. "Obviously we know they have a lot of experience, and the put together a great show for the men for the past 10 years. We wanted to talk to them, and we know they are interested in joining the future series."
Marcellini spent most of 2014 getting a handle on the current schedule of World Cups and UCI races. Marcellini spent time studying and understanding each organisers vision and capacity for media coverage. The UCI's goal is to launch an expanded series, with a new points series in 2016. The series will include existing world cups, one day events, and stage races. Marcellini says they plan on announcing the name in June, and hope to complete buy in from stakeholders by the end of the summer.
Marcellini has other changes in the works as they develop the new points series.
"I can't tell you much yet, because we are at a very early stage, but we are also working together with the teams to create a new structure for them to professionalize their teams," said Marcellini. "Hopefully as a long term goal, we will achieve some of the things the riders have been fighting for which are minimum salary, better trained staff, minimum staff, and a more professional structure."
Marcellini feels there are a few factors that can improve rider welfare. Organisational improvements and increased dialogue between relevant parties are elements the UCI is addressing. Marcellini points to the team's working group, and efforts to understand team economics, as recent examples of progress.
Despite new proposals and improved communication endeavors, the path towards salary standards remains murky. Marcellini paints the UCI as an enforcement tool, rather than a legislative body.
"I think the riders, the sponsors and everybody kind of understands that it is not up to the UCI to impose a minimum salary now. This year we have 38 women's teams, there is a huge difference between the top five or ten and the rest of the teams. We would put more than half out of business if we were to do that," said Marcellini. "If you look at the men's side of the sport, it's never been the UCI who imposed a minimum salary. The UCI simply validates agreements between riders and teams, and this is what we are looking to have happen in women's cycling as well."
An area the UCI has jump started on their own is improving media coverage of women's cycling. The UCI carved out funds from their development budget for post production coverage of the women's world cup series. The UCI augments existing coverage with behind the scenes interviews, news clips, and features. They focus their efforts at reaching a broader audience.
"We thought the media exposure of the women's world cup, our top series, was the right thing to do," said Marcellini. "It was where we could get the fastest impact. The feedback we get from the teams and the riders is that they are pretty happy, and their sponsors are happy, with the increased media exposure that they are getting."
With the first Amgen Tour of California women's stage race in the can organisers will be regrouping to plan the future. "We are really looking forward to continuing to build upon it, and hope that others will continue to follow throughout the country, internationally," said said Kristin Bachochin Klein, executive director of the Amgen Tour of California and senior vice president of AEG Sports. "This is something that we have invested in and have believed in from day one of the Amgen Tour of California. We've been putting on women's race for seven years now. We are excited that we've been able to continue. Last year we had two days, and this year we have four days and we look forward to more in the future."
An improved UCI women's series could fit well into AEG's plans for the Amgen Tour of California Women's Race.