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Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig: Women’s prize amounts send the wrong message

Peloton at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2021
The peloton at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2021 where women's winner Anna van der Breggen earned €930 while men's winner Davide Ballerini earned €16,000 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Cecilie Utrrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) has joined the discussion on prize money disparity, wholeheartedly welcoming the successful crowdfunding campaign to supplement, and therefore equalise, the women's payout at Strade Bianche. 

The powerful response to the 'Equal prize money for the Women’s Peloton' GoFundMe campaign, with more than a thousand people donating, topped up the prize purse for the top five finishers by around €26,000. Added to the race organiser provided prize pool of €6,298 that not only brought the women's prize purse up to the men's amount but even took the total slightly above what the top five men received, which was €31,600.

“A massive show of support from fans across the world stating that such a huge discrepancy in prize money isn't fair,” said Uttrup Ludwig in an Instagram Post. “This is simply a fantastic gesture and they all have my profound gratitude.”

As the fifth-placed rider at Strade Bianche Uttrup Ludwig's prize packet would have contained just €385 under the UCI mandated minimum, compared to a men's prize for fifth of €1,600.

The Strade Bianche fundraising campaign came after the disparity at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad reignited the ongoing discussion. First-placed Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) earned €930 of a total €4,660 prize purse that Flanders Classics offered to the women's 1.Pro race and Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-QuickStep) earned €16,000 of a total €40,000 prize purse offered to the men's 1.WorldTour race. These payout amounts, much like the prize payouts at Strade Bianche, meet the requirements stipulated by the UCI.

The prize difference for those in first place wasn't quite as large at Strade Bianche, as both were WorldTour level races, but there was still a huge gulf. The prize packet provided by organisers for winner Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) was again €16,000 while for Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx) the Women’s WorldTour mandated minimum prize packet was €1,535.

“One could ask oneself if the UCI should step in and help with regulations? I mean for the time being the minimum prize money of a Women's WorldTour one-day race is only 1/10 of the winner of the men's WorldTour race. Personally I don’t think that’s the right message to send, “ said the 25-year-old Uttrup Ludwig. 

Prize money has been just one of the many issues drawing attention recently. Salaries – with the mandated minimum for women's WorldTeams around half the men’s rate – and the issue of limited television coverage have also been in the spotlight.

Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel said that for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this year the higher priority was placed on first-ever live coverage of the women’s race – which is only a requirement for Women's WorldTour level races – with the organisation working toward equal prize money in 2023.

“You might argue that the large prize money disparity isn’t the most pressing issue women’s cycling is facing. That worldwide TV exposure is a more important matter and is the fundamental key to attract sponsorships. Sponsorships helps grow our sport making it possible for more women to earn a living wage in cycling. I definitely acknowledge when organizers prioritize to invest in improved TV coverage and I understand it takes time to reach equality. We need to be patient," said Uttrup Ludwig. 

“But in general I still believe that we should always be able to point out things that are obviously unfair. We should be able to challenge the status quo to make sure that we keep progressing. I believe it’s important to debate issues that need improvement because in that way we progress faster.”