Just days after the top-tier of men's professional cycling raced across the cobblestones between Compiègne and Roubaix and fans went wild upon seeing world champion Peter Sagan claim a striking victory, UCI President David Lappartient said that he dreams of a Paris-Roubaix Feminine.
In an interview with L'Equipe Wednesday, Lappartient insisted that the development of women's cycling is a priority, saying that women "deserve more". He said that he would like to see every race organiser of men's events also host a women's race.
ASO, organisers of the Paris-Roubaix and Tour de France, currently host the women's La Course by Le Tour de France. The event started in 2014 as a circuit race held along the Champs-Élysées in conjunction with the final day of the men's Tour de France. Marianne Vos won the inaugural edition followed by Anna van der Breggen and Chloe Hosking.
Last year, the event was reorganised as a two-day format that coincided with stages 18 and 20 of the Tour; a road race that finished on the Col d'Izoard and a pursuit stage in Marseille. Annemiek van Vleuten won both stages.
This year, the race the race is back to one day and will take place on July 17 in the Alps, on a 118km route between Annecy and Le Grand Bornand - a version of stage 10 of the men's race.
But the cycling community has questioned why organisers have not put together a longer stage race for the women's field, an equivalent to the men's Tour de France. And, as spring Classics make up the bulk of one-day racing on the 2018 Women's WorldTour, pressure has been mounting to also host a women's version of Paris-Roubaix.
Lappartient said he hopes to see a women's Paris-Roubaix.
"I want every organiser to have a men's and women's race. I dream of a Paris-Roubaix Feminine," he told L'Equipe.
This year's Women's WorldTour includes 23 events where the top 15 teams on the world ranking are invited to compete. But with conflicting stage races this year with the Amgen Tour of California and Emakumeen Bira, it's clear that many women's teams don't have the rosters or resources to compete in two events at the same time, or even the entire calendar.
And while some events have provided live coverage, others are difficult to follow.
"The Women's WorldTour has been developed but the teams do not have the rosters to do it. I want them to be better recognized and better paid. You need a better television coverage and there isn't the (women's) equivalent of the Tour de France. We need a stage race that is broadcast globally."
Although Lappartient would like to see organisers of men's events also host equivalent women's events, he said he has mixed feeling on obliging men's teams to also create women’s teams. "Yes and no," he said when asked.
But he does agree that there are problems concerning the minimal compensation that women are currently receiving from teams for racing. "Their status is not acceptable. Two-thirds of them earn less than €10,000 a year," Lappartient said.
Lappartient acknowledged that a tiered system for professional women's cycling needs to be put in place but also said that it is a difficult task because women's cycling lacks in numbers.
"The problem of women's cycling is that the base of the pyramid is not wide enough," he said. "We need to develop the numbers of people taking part."
He also admitted the UCI could be doing more to improve the number of women that sit on its own committees.
"Even our own governance is not that good. Only one woman was elected to our 17-member steering committee. That has to change via by modifying our rules."
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