The Association Française des Coureures Cyclistes (AFCC) has revealed to Cyclingnews that the French Cycling Federation (FCF) will issue professional racing licences to top-tier female road cyclists for the first time in 2021. French road race national champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot called the move a significant step forward for women's cycling in France.
"I'm glad we have managed to achieve our first goal as a young association," said Cordon-Ragot, who races professionally for Trek-Segafredo and is the co-vice-president of the AFCC, a national women's association founded in 2019 to campaign for the professional recognition of female cyclists.
"This may look small but it's a big step for women's cycling in France!"
The French Cycling Federation's decision to issue professional licences comes at the start of the second season of Women's WorldTour reforms, whereby women's cycling teams are now separated into two tiers - Women's WorldTeams and Continental Teams.
In an agreement reached on January, 15, 2021, and with immediate effect, approximately 15 French female athletes who hold Women’s WorldTeam (WWT) contracts will receive professional licences.
There are currently nine Women's WorldTeams, one more than in 2020 including: SD Worx, Alè BTC Ljubljana Cipollini, Canyon-SRAM, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, Team BikeExchange, Liv Racing, Movistar Team Women, Team DSM and Trek-Segafredo.
Women's WorldTeams must meet specific ethical, financial and administrative requirements, that include paying their riders a minimum salary, and other social benefits, as part of their employed or self-employed contracts.
Current cyclists who will benefit from these new rules are the riders that are part of the nation's only Women's WorldTeam FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope: Clara Copponi, Eugenie Duval, Maële Grossetête, Victorie Guilman, Marie Le Net, Evita Muzic and Jade Wiel, along with Cordon-Ragot, reigning French time trial champion Juliette Labous (Team DSM) and Roxanne Fournier (SD Worx).
It is an important step forward for female athletes because having a professional licence, instead of a category 1, 2, or 3 licence, will allow riders to receive practical support including health insurance and social security, because their rider-team contracts with Women's WorldTeams are now recognised as a professional work in France. In addition, the AFCC have stated that the move will enable riders to focus on their racing and feel validated as professionals by the FCF.
“The French Cycling Federation has made history by recognising the professionalism of its female racers," said Marion Clignet, co-president of the AFCC.
"This will enable the cyclists to focus more on their cycling and so improve their skills and help our country win more medals. It was time for France to recognise female cyclists at this level and it will allow the women’s peloton to reach higher.
"When you race under a [professional] contract, country pending, in France you have social security. The fact that the women are pro also gives them more leverage when they sign other contracts - for a house, a loan, etc.," Clignet told Cyclingnews.
There are currently no specifications that include second-tier Continental Teams and there isn't a similar two-tier structure or WorldTeams in mountain biking. Clignet noted that the AFCC organisation is currently focused on road but that it hopes to bring up the cahier des charges for the UCI Continental teams in future.
President of the FCF, Michel Callot, stated that federation was pleased to recognized the professional stature of the nation's female road cyclists that are under contract with Women's WorldTeams.
“This is another important step forward in the development of the professional structure of women's cycling," Callot said.
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