Annemiek van Vleuten blog: Momentum

Annemiek van Vleuten 2021 womens Strade Bianche Siena 632021
(Image credit: BettiniPhoto / Movistar Team)

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team Women) is a two-time winner of the Giro Rosa, a two-time winner of the individual time trial at the World Championships, both in 2017 and 2018, and winner of the road race title at the World Championships in 2019. You can visit her website here.

The hot topic is the fans who started crowdfunding for equal prize money ahead of Strade Bianche. It was so cool to see our fans start this initiative, and it was heartwarming to see them speak up about inequalities in cycling. In some sports, it's already equal, but in cycling, it's far from equal. 

I genuinely believe that it was a kind gesture for fans to help organise and contribute to equalising the prize money at Strade Bianche. Still, it's essential to understand that uneven prize money in cycling is not the highest priority in making progress in our sport.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many people watched both the men's and women's Strade Bianche on live television. It was an excellent sign of progress because only the Olympic Games and the World Championships were on television when I started cycling.

Fans must continue asking for more live television coverage of women's races. Please keep on asking organisers to create other races for women that fans would like to see. We have the first women's Paris-Roubaix in April and a women's Tour de France coming next year. It would be great to fill in our international calendar gaps; a Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, Volta a Catalunya, Itzulia (Basque race) in Spring, or Il Lombardia in Autumn. It would give these race organisers an excellent opportunity to show that they value women's racing, too. I know that it can be challenging for some organisers to put on races, and so having the races on the calendar, plus live broadcasting, is the best way to develop the business model of women's cycling. 

My biggest wish is that everyone in the women's peloton was paid a minimum salary so that no one had to work a second job or live with their parents because they can't afford to live on their own. When Trek-Segafredo decided to offer their women's team the same minimum salary as the men, it showed that they believed in parity. Now, BikeExchange has followed. If we raise the salaries for women, the racing level increases, making our races more exciting. More teams can fight for the victory, and more women from more nationalities can fight for the win.

It's great to see that race organisers want to offer women's races and equal prize money, teams want to raise the minimum salary for women, and men's teams want to create women's teams – not because they have to but because they see the huge potential of our sport. These initiatives will elevate the sport as a whole. 

It's an excellent way for race organisers and teams to show that they believe men and women are equal. It's an important concept at my team, Movistar, where men and women are treated equally, and our title sponsor, Telefonica, also wants to send out this clear message, which is why they started the women's team.

Every year women's cycling gets better and better. When I look back on my first year of racing, nothing was on television, and when I won the Tour of Flanders in 2011, there was only a three-second television shot at the finish line.

I have to give a shout-out to Flanders Classics, too, because they've put money into organising our races for a long time, they invest in our sport, and I don't like to see them get negative attention just because they don't offer the same prize money. They invest a lot in the right way by providing the races, getting them on television, and committing to equal prize money in 2023.

Still, it's been heartwarming to see that so many fans have made donations because it means that they can see that there are inequalities. It shows strong momentum in our sport, and I hope we can keep this going. The Healthy Ageing Tour was on television because the organiser started crowdfunding, and many people donated money because they wanted to watch the race. Although I wasn't racing there, I enjoyed watching all three stages on Eurosport.

It makes me happy that people enjoy watching our sport, and this is the momentum that we need to keep making progress. I want to say thank you to all the fans who have shown us their support. Let's keep this positive momentum going with The Cyclists' Alliance's four steps to help build a better future for professional women's cycling:

  • Watch women's races
  • Engage and talk about our races
  • Follow teams and riders
  • Speak up against inequality

In a crowdfunding campaign launched ahead of Strade Bianche, more than 1,000 enthusiasts of women’s cycling came together to raise €26,903 to be distributed to the top five finishers on the race by The Cyclists’ Alliance. The crowdfunding campaign - “Equal prize money for the Women’s Peloton” - was set up by fans to raise the women’s winning prize offered by RCS Sport from its current total of €2,256 to match the men’s winning prize of €16,000 at Strade Bianche.

Trek-Segafredo has raised the salaries for their women’s team to equal or exceed the minimum salary requirements set by the UCI for the men’s WorldTour. The sport governing body intends to gradually increase the minimum salary requirements for the Women’s WorldTour in future. However, Trek-Segafredo stated that they didn’t want to wait for that mandate and instead implemented their own base salary requirements that went into effect on January 1, 2021.

Flanders Classics launched a four-year plan called 'Closing the Gap' with action points that include hosting women's events in conjunction with all six of their Spring Classics, live broadcasting and bringing parity to the prize payouts by 2023.

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Annemiek van Vleuten

Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team Women) is a two-time winner of the Giro d'Italia Donne, a two-time winner of the individual time trial at the World Championships, both in 2017 and 2018, and winner of the road race title at the World Championships in 2019. You can visit her website here.