Tour of Flanders winner Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) has described the often huge difference in prize money in men's and women's race as 'a disgrace', admitting he is trying not to think about his massive boost in earnings after winning a Monument Classic and how it could affect his life.
The 26-year-old Italian's income has increased massively since he attacked alone over the Kwaremont to win the Tour of Flanders and take his first professional victory. He was always considered a talented one-day rider but his life changed dramatically on April 7.
He has recently moved from Tuscany to Lugano in Switzerland, but revealed in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport that his personal treat for winning the Tour of Flanders was a set of new wheels for his car costing 500 Euro. He is trying to keep his feet on the ground, stay focused on his racing and remain hungry.
"If you stop to think how much you earn, you won’t go out on your bike," he suggested during a visit to component sponsor FSA near Milan, where he raised the point about the huge difference between men's and women's prize money.
More and more races are offering full gender equality in terms of prize money but Bettiol highlighted the difference at the 2019 Tour of Flanders, where he shared the podium with women's winner Marta Bastianelli.
"I want to keep my mind free like it was leading to my big victory because you need to be mentally strong and focused to win. We earn a lot via our contracts but prize money is very low. The winner of the Tour of Flanders gets only 20,000 Euro. It’s even worse for the women. Marta Bastianelli won only 1,265 Euro. That's a disgrace and unfair because she suffered just like I did or perhaps even more and women’s cycling is now an established reality."
Bettiol measures the value of Tour of Flanders victory in other ways.
"It's given me the confidence that I can now compete with the best in the world," he said. "It also helped repay, at least in part, everything my family, the team and the people who have always been there for me."
"I like competition and racing against other people and I know that the training and preparation is the road that leads to success. But saying that, if I didn’t have the talent I have, I'm not sure if I'd be able to continue because you have to sacrifice a lot."
Following his Tour of Flanders victory, Bettiol was second in the Italian time trial championships and third in the road race championships but was unable to win again.
He rode the Tour de France with EF Education First but had a quiet second half to the season, with the Road World Championships in Yorkshire his final race of the 2019 season. He started training again on November 7, exactly seven months after his Tour of Flanders victory, where he wore race number 77.
After taking his first professional victory in one of the sport's biggest one-day Classics in 2019, he now has a new goal for 2020.
"To find the consistency that I've lacked so far," he said modestly, keen to enjoy emotions that money cannot buy.
"I hope to continue winning and want to stay at the highest level. I want to fire up people's emotions and move them, which is perhaps the most pleasing thing for me."
"I also want to return to Flanders one day, away from racing and any events, just to see the roads and breath in the air."