In light of new information, this article has been amended since it was first published.
The UCI recently announced a new two-tiered system for women's cycling that would go hand-in-hand with an enforced minimum salary for the top tier - to be called UCI Women's WorldTeams - beginning in 2020. UCI President David Lappartient confirmed to Cyclingnews that the minimum salary would be equal to that of the men's Professional Continental teams – currently set at just above €30,000.
Lappartient initially suggested the women's minimum WorldTour salary would eventually equal the €38,115 for the men's WorldTour, but this was incorrect.
"This is a very big step for women's cycling," Lappartient told Cyclingnews while he was attending the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck on Sunday.
"I was a little bit afraid when I saw the survey that we have about women's cycling, that in fact, two-thirds of women racing earn less than €10,000 per year. That is not acceptable for us at the governing body.
"When we spoke with the stakeholders; teams, organisers, riders, national federations and the UCI on the reforms, we wanted to figure out how it was possible to ensure the stability of the riders who work, and they need to be paid for what they are doing.
"That's why we want to promote the best teams at the WorldTour level, and to be able to reach this level, they will need to have a minimum salary."
Lappartient already told Cyclingnews in July that the UCI was planning the two-tiered team system and a minimum wage for the top-tier. However, at that time he was reluctant to reveal the salary range.
In Innsbruck, the UCI announced that the tiered teams would be called Women's WorldTeams and Continental Teams and that the goal was to have five teams make up the WorldTeams in 2020, 10 teams in 2021 and 15 teams in 2022.
Lappartient told Cyclingnews that the five teams will be chosen via an application process and not by UCI World Ranking points. He said that he is hoping for five teams that are able to meet the Women's WorldTeam requirements and that if there are additional applications, he will consider increasing the number of teams in the top division.
"There will be an application process," he said. "Just because a team has a lot of points, doesn't mean they are able to follow the specifications of the minimum salary, or other requirements."
He also said that it was important to start small and improve step-by-step, which is why he will not enforce a minimum salary for the second-tier Continental Teams, worried that they may fold under financial pressures.
"If we put too strong of a requirement frame at the beginning, we might lose a lot of teams," Lappartient said. "We want to promote the best teams and the best riders in the world, and that is why we will start out with five teams by five, by five, until we have 15 teams with a minimum salary. This is the goal and I hope we have 15 teams that are paying a minimum salary by 2022."
The idea of introducing a minimum salary for women's teams was widely discussed in recent years, under Brian Cookson's presidency, but there was initial push back from teams that were worried they wouldn't be able to afford the additional costs.
"I think the idea from Brian Cookson was a good one, and the vision and the direction were good," Lappartient said. "We believe that it is much more possible to do this now because we have more WorldTour men's teams involved with this, and because we are starting small, with only five teams.
There is currently only one category that includes 46 UCI Women's Teams, whereby the top 15, according to the UCI World Ranking, are automatically invited to compete in events that are part of the Women's WorldTour, although those teams are not obliged to accept the invitations.
The introduction of the new calendar called the UCI ProSeries includes four classes: UCI Women's WorldTour, UCI ProSeries, Class 1 and Class 2. Under the new structure, Women's WorldTeams will be required to race in the Women's WorldTour events.
The UCI will also enforce new contractual regulations that are meant to improve the working conditions for women in cycling. All athletes' contracts will be examined through the registration of these contracts by a financial audit and consultancy firm, in line with the model that already exists for the men's professional peloton.
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