Rochelle Gilmore (BikeExchange.com.au) has joined the growing chorus of voices demanding better conditions for the women’s peloton, telling Cyclingnews at the launch for this weekend’s NSW Grand Prix Series that though progress is being made in terms of the professionalism of the riders – the financial side has yet to catch up.
"It’s disappointing to see so many teams at the top level of the women’s discipline existing and paying their riders nothing," said Gilmore. "That's the situation at the moment. Plenty of women will still ride, even on nothing, I know I would and have, because we love the sport, but it’s unfortunate that in this day and age that that's the way things are. To see the UCI still not regulating a minimum wage when there is one for the men is really disappointing."
The Australian Commonwealth Games champion has been involved in the sport as a rider and a manager, as well as on occasion working in the media. It's with that experience that Gilmore is able to offer an insight that perhaps others cannot.
Citing the NSW Grand Prix Series as a good example of the right kind of approach, Gilmore said that more promoters need to be taking the opportunity to offer women’s events where men’s events are already taking place. Gent-Wevelgem announced earlier this month that they would be doing just that, but it’s only the start.
"What Phill Bates does here, albeit at a smaller scale is great. The courses, the spectators, the media are all already there. It’s a no brainer to have a women’s event.
"But even events like Fleche Wallone that already have a complementing women’s event probably don’t go far enough. I was watching the men’s event on television this year and they couldn’t cut from the men’s coverage for even 30 seconds to just show the finish of the women’s race.
"The commentator just said ‘Marianne Vos has just won the women’s event’. All the infrastructure is there, they have cameras at the finish. It’s frustrating but that’s not even unique."
The burden however does not fall on the event promoters alone. As Gilmore points out, too many teams are currently without a women’s squad. At the WorldTour level Garmin-Cervelo, HTC-Highroad and now Rabobank are the exceptions to a sobering statistic.
"It’s positive that you have more and more of the big teams supporting a women’s team, that’s great. But honestly, it should be compulsory. It would add 5-10 per cent to their overall budget and vastly expand their following."
Fellow Australian Chloe Hosking echoed Gilmore’s sentiments when she expressed to Cyclingnews earlier in the year that for a small fraction of the salary of star Belgian Philippe Gilbert you could have a whole women’s team. Gilmore concluded that for the women’s side of the sport to flourish a closer partnership with the men would be needed from promotion, to team support to media coverage.
"Even just one of those initiatives would be enough to get things moving forward. The sponsorship and the salaries will follow after that. I think that’s the future and hopefully [for the women’s peloton] that comes sooner rather than later."
Gilmore is acting as a commentator for this weekend’s NSW Grand Prix Series for Australian national broadcaster Nine.