The lack of a minimum salary is one of the most talked about issues in women's professional cycling. However change could be on the horizon as entities like the Professional Cyclists Association (CPA) push the UCI to establish rules that will oblige teams to provide riders with compensation for the jobs they do.
UCI Management Committee member Bob Stapleton, formerly manager of the HTC-Highroad men's and women's teams, is in favour of creating and enforcing a minimum salary rule as soon as possible, even if it might start out at a low figure.
"There is enough critical mass in women's cycling to move forward on minimum salaries," Stapleton told Cyclingnews.
"We have to be practical and realistic, it's going to happen over time and there will be some steps involved. I wouldn't want to predict how fast it is going to happen, but we need to set it in place very quickly and force it to progress over time.
"I don't think people are going to be thrilled with where salaries come out the first go around, but it will be a big step in the right direction that we will have to balance over time."
The UCI announced a minimum salary increase for the first time in five years for men's WorldTour and Professional Continental riders set to begin in 2018, with a 2% increases in 2019 and 2020. However, there was no minimum wage rule included for the women's peloton, which is treated under the same regulations as men's Continental teams.
Despite being grouped together with the Continental teams, women’s cycling has progressed with a Women's WorldTour series that is supposed to be on par of the men's circuit. The UCI recently announced the expansion of the series by adding three events for a total of 23 events and 52 days of racing in 2018.
On the bright side, Stapleton said that women's cycling is in an advantageous position to learn from the mistakes of the men's WorldTour.
"I think that's one of the first places to start - looking hard at the Women's WorldTour structure, learning from what has and hasn't worked with the men. The original concept was just to get it up and running, get a number of events and teams, get some critical mass.
"I think that's happened. Now we need to go back and make sure the economics are really there. Are we really developing athletes? Are we ready to put in some economic structure so athletes are going to get compensated for their work? In my mind, the answer is 'absolutely yes', this has to be something we make progress on."
Former UCI president Brian Cookson promised to establish a minimum wage as part of his 2013 manifesto but he then failed to make that happen. He, along with several women’s team owners, expressed concerns about a minimum wage backfiring, saying that it could force teams to downsize or fold under a heightened financial obligation.
"That's something we need to engage the community on," Stapleton said. “The teams have to have a voice on that, but I hear the athletes loud and clear, and share that point of view. To be a legitimate sport we have to have legitimate respect and compensation for the participants."
Alessandra Cappellotto, head of the new women's division of the CPA, is working on a minimum salary rule and told Cyclingnews in October that she was confident of getting it in place for the 2019 season.
Asked for a more specific timeline for a minimum salary to be established, Stapleton was optimistic that it could happen as soon as 2018.
"I want to be very respectful of my colleagues,” Stapleton said. "This is the direction that makes sense to me, and I believe is widely held in the sport, but we have to take the time and run a good process here.
"I would look for changes happening next year. I think there is a lot of enthusiasm for that, but we have to get the stakeholders organised and committed to a plan of action."
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