Speaking in an interview with Belgian financial newspaper De Tijd (opens in new tab), Van den Spiegel said his organisation would offer €50,000 as a total prize purse for each of the women's and men's events, and that the winners of each race will be paid €20,000.
The move is part of the 'Closing the Gap' initiative led by Flanders Classics and accountancy firm KPMG, which was announced two years ago. The plan was founded with the goal of elevating women's cycling in Flanders, and now the move to increase prize money at the Tour of Flanders comes a year ahead of schedule.
"This season we are making the effort to increase the prize money in the women's edition of the Tour of Flanders to €50,000," Van den Spiegel said.
"[That's] the same amount that is distributed among the winners of the men's race. From 2023 onwards, it's our intention to equalise the prize money for all our spring races."
Other races under the Flanders Classics umbrella include Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Scheldeprijs, and Brabantse Pijl, each of which have both a men's and women's race.
This time last year, Flanders Classics faced criticism over the difference in prize money awarded to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winners Davide Ballerini and Anna van der Breggen. The men's race saw Ballerini collect €16,000 as part of a wider €40,000 purse, while Van der Breggen took home just €930 from a total of €4,600.
Back then, Van den Spiegel took to Twitter to defend his organisation, stating that "six figures were invested into moving the race up a category and into first-time TV production" and adding that Flanders Classics would "keep pushing for equality in cycling in future."
Speaking to De Tijd, he said that the resources invested by Flanders Classics and KPMG are invested "very specifically" to further professionalise women's cycling. He also compared the sport to the more equal state of tennis, noting that cycling has made "enormous steps" in the past decade.
"Professionalism is the code word for KPMG and Flanders Classics," he said. "We don't do social work here. The resources are invested very specifically to achieve a more professional women's cycling.
"That is precisely why, starting this year, we are also focussing on organising races in the youth categories, so that the base is broader."
Van der Spiegel also noted the obstacles still faced in growing women's cycling, including additional money from TV companies and sponsors. Holding races on separate days and separating the "products", rather than running the women's race a few hours before the men's, is to be another goal for Flanders Classics.
"We are still facing a lot of obstacles," he said. "No money is yet paid for the TV rights of women's races. For income from sponsorships and VIP packages, we are still too dependent on the men's races that are raced on the same day. We have to come up with a product that can exist on its own as much as possible."
Stephanie Pauwels, head of sales and marketing at KPMG, said that the firm had invested €1million into women's cycling as part of the 'Closing the Gap' initiative. She noted how the money had been spent, including helping races move up categories.
"In recent years, we have invested €1million in women's cycling with 'Closing the Gap'," said Pauwels. "Apart from start money and prize money, those funds went to payments to the UCI to get more women's races licensed and on the calendar. We also made efforts to get races in higher categories, which makes the framework of these races more professional."
The 2022 Spring Classics begin this weekend with the first Flanders Classics races of the season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (men's only) follows on Sunday.
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