Audrey Cordon-Ragot praised the UCI's decision to introduce a minimum salary for the top tier of women’s teams beginning in 2020. The French time trial champion, who is set to race with Trek-Segafredo next year, said that it was one of the most important steps toward improving the overall professionalism of women’s cycling.
"It's a big step that we are taking now," Cordon-Ragot told Cyclingnews in an interview at the SportHotel, where the French national team was staying ahead of the 2018 Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.
"There is still a long road ahead because we have so many things still to improve in women's cycling, but this is the first step to take, and it is so important."
UCI President David Lappartient told Cyclingnews in July that a two-tiered team system would be introduced in 2020 and that the top tier would be paid a minimum salary.
In Innsbruck, he confirmed the two tiers – Women’s WorldTeams and Continental Teams - and that the top level would be required to pay riders a minimum salary equal to that of the men’s Professional Continental teams, currently set at just above €30,000.
There will be five Women’s WorldTeams in 2020, and the minimum salary will be gradually phased in over a three-year period. The goal is to have 10 teams in 2021 and 15 teams by 2022.
Lappartient said he was afraid when he learned through a survey about women's cycling, that two-thirds of women racing earn less than €10,000 per year. Cordon-Ragot echoed the same fears and disappointment saying, "There are so many riders who earn nothing to ride their bikes, and thus how are you supposed to have the same level as the top women when you are not paid?
"I think that this minimum salary will allow the level of women’s cycling to grow a lot. It’s so exciting to see women paid a proper salary to ride their bikes professionally."
The UCI is also set to introduce a strict Code of Ethic and Code of Conduct that aims to raise awareness of harassment, and new contractual regulations to better improve working conditions for women in cycling.
New team, new ambitions
Cordon-Ragot has been part of the Wiggle High5 team that is set to fold at the end of this season. Her final races with the team will be at the Chrono des Nations on Sunday, where she lines up as the defending champion, and then the Women’s WorldTour finale Tour of Guangxi.
"I will be racing Chrono des Nations in France, which is an important race for me and our team," she said. "We have a lot of UCI points to take there, and I won the last edition, and so it’s always nice to go back there as the defending champion.
"The event in China will be my last race with Wiggle. I think it will be nice for me to finish in China, in a smaller atmosphere and to have a nice time with the team."
Wiggle High5 owner Rochelle Gilmore announced in July that she would not register the team for 2019, which effectively ending the program at the end of this year. She cited personal reasons for her decision to shut down the team, and although she said she plans to continue within the sport, she has not made any further announcements.
"It is what it is," said Condon-Ragot, who spent four seasons with the team. "It was a great team for a lot of riders who raced with Wiggle over the five years. This is life, though, and sometimes teams end like this.
"I think Rochelle decided to change things a little bit in her life outside of cycling, and she needs a bit of time for herself. I think it was difficult for her to find great persons to work with this year. I think maybe it’s better for her to take one or two years off and then come back with a new team, more motivation, and stuff like this.
"I’ll be leaving people that I like a lot. We’ve been close together, and we had good relationships, but it is what it is. It’s cycling, it’s my job, and I also needed a change."
Cordon-Ragot landed a spot on the new Trek-Segafredo women’s team for the 2019 season. Trek announced in July that they would support a UCI Women’s Team, run under the same management as the men’s WorldTour team and that the squad would compete on the Women’s WorldTour. They announced that Segafredo had also come on board as the second title sponsor during the World Championships in September.
"We found out that Segafredo will also sponsor the women’s team and so we will be exactly the same as the men," Cordon-Ragot said, adding that she aims to run a women’s team of her own one day, that has ties to a men's WorldTour team.
"This is something that I defend for the future of women’s cycling. It’s something I would like to do myself in the future, in France; having a proper team from a men’s team. I don’t know which one, but I want to work on that. So, being part of this project is also giving me a lot of experience for the future.”
Cordon-Ragot joins a talented team of women that includes Lizzie Deignan, Elisa Longo Borghini, Lotta Lepistö, Letizia Paternoster, Ellen van Dijk, Abi Van Twisk, Tayler Wiles, Ruth Winder, Trixi Worrack and Lauretta Hanson.
"I feel super excited to race alongside such good riders, and I hope I’m going to have my chance because I’m also a winner," Cordon-Ragot said. “I haven’t been winning a lot in the past years, but I think I’ve stepped up again this year. We will have so many cards to play, and I want to be one of those cards."