The UCI is planning to bring parity in racing opportunity and prize lists between the men and women's fields in the Cyclo-cross World Cup. Peter Van den Abeele, the UCI's head of off-road disciplines, described plans to add a women's Junior 17-18 field and increase the prize list for women over the next four seasons in a press release this week.
The decisions come after the UCI Management Committee's last meeting in June, when the UCI decided to make the prize list for the overall UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup winners equal beginning with the upcoming season.
"We're reaching a high of €155,000 which is an addition of €30,000," Van den Abeele said. "We've already noticed a crossover of riders between road, mountain bike and cyclo-cross, and we have a good mixture of athletes. This significant financial effort will now attract even more athletes to compete in our series. It's really a decent payout which is guaranteeing gender parity between male and female riders in cyclo-cross."
There will also be a minimum prize pay rise for women for each round in the series, which is paid by the race organisers, but to reduce the immediate burden on the races the increases will be phased in over four seasons starting in 2019.
"The minimum prize money per round for women paid by organisers will rise from €10,400 to €39,500 over the next four years, bringing it to the level of the men's allowance. Each season starting from 2019/2020, close to €10,000 extra will go into the female riders' purses. As this will have a significant impact on the organisers' budgets, there will be no changes for the upcoming season. The increase will be implemented gradually, and we're thinking of giving something in return to sort of offset their additional costs."
The UCI has also confirmed plans to add a Junior Women's 17-18 year old field to the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in 2020, followed by adding the same category to the World Cup circuit beginning with the 2020-2021 season.
"That means that from the Worlds in Dübendorf onward we will have equity in the programmes for both the UCI World Championships and UCI World Cup, with Junior, U23 and Elite races for both men and women," Van den Abeele said. "Youth participation is the most important element for the development of any discipline. We have to start at the base. Now that we are seeing great racing and good participation, it's time to start a category for these younger athletes."
The rounds of the World Cup in North America have been the first to introduce equal prize lists, and this season the television broadcasts of the races will have the women in the 'marquee' spot for the Iowa and Waterloo rounds. Although the women will be headlining for North American audiences, the men's race will take place at 8:30pm European time, in prime television time. The women's race at 3:15pm local time will finish at 11pm.
In addition to helping expand the women's side of the sport, the UCI are also putting efforts into getting more countries involved in the World Cup, increasing the number of rouns from nine to 12 rounds, and maybe even 14 stops. The UCI plans to have a minimum of six different host countries and no more than half of the series in the same country.
"The discipline itself is very attractive for broadcasters: it's dynamic, short and good for TV," Van den Abeele said. "In addition, the arrival of Telenet and the fact that we provide free TV production, mean's it's enormously cost-saving for organisers, who are showing an increasing interest in hosting World Cups. It's an opportunity for us to come back to countries - like Switzerland, Spain or the Czech Republic - with a strong cyclo-cross tradition. With the increase in prize monies, we are optimistic about the future of cyclo-cross across the globe."
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