The UCI announced a series of reforms that aim to further professionalise women’s road racing by introducing a two-tiered system – WorldTeams and Continental Teams - and a minimum wage for the top tier in 2020 – which make up part of the road map that is its Agenda 2022. The sport’s governing body made the announcement Wednesday following a series of meetings held at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck.
Although the UCI Steering Committee made the decision official in Innsbruck, Cyclingnews had already reported on the two developments in July following an exclusive interview with UCI President David Lappartient.
"We are currently working on the introduction of a new category of teams - a first division, the UCI Women's WorldTeams - in women's professional road cycling," Lappartient told Cyclingnews at the time.
"It is an ambitious project which will give more structure to women's cycling. This project involves all stakeholders, and we envisage its introduction in 2020. In particular, this change will go hand in hand with the introduction of a minimum salary for UCI Women's WorldTeams."
The UCI got rid of the former World Cup and introduced the Women’s WorldTour calendar in 2016, a series that combines stage races and one-day events.
Under the current teams structure, however, there is only one category that includes all 46 UCI Women’s Teams, whereby the top 15, according to the UCI World Ranking set at the start of this year in January, are automatically invited to compete in Women's WorldTour events. The catch is that those 15 teams are not obliged to participate in all of the WorldTour events, something that could change in two years under the new reforms.
“The status of UCI Women's WorldTeams will notably entitle these teams to participate in all the UCI Women's WorldTour events,” as noted a recent UCI press release.
In accordance with the Agenda 2020, the managers of the new top tier teams will have to pay their riders a minimum salary. Lappartient did not confirm the details of the amount, but he did say that it probably would not equal that of the top-tier men's WorldTour teams or even the Professional Continental teams.
On the men’s side, WorldTour riders are currently entitled to a minimum salary of €38,115, and Professional Continental riders earn a minimum of €30,855 per year. Neo-pros, however, earn less at €30,839 at WorldTour and €25,806 on a Professional Continental team.
The overall goal of the Agenda 2020 is to strengthening the professionalisation of women's road cycling and the role of women in sport governance. The UCI noted on Wednesday that there will also be rigorous control of all athlete contracts through the recording of these contracts by a financial auditing and consulting firm, along the lines of what was set up for the professional men's peloton.
The agenda also includes structural initiatives concerning the sport governing body's future role in gender equality within the sport and the UCI intends to enforce a strict Code of Ethic and Code of Conduct that aims to raise awareness of harassment, more respectful podium ceremony protocols and changes to the minimum standards for prize money - which will see a 10 per cent increase each year starting in 2019.
New racing calendars take shape as part of Agenda 2022
When it comes to racing, the UCI Women's Road International Calendar will be restructured, notably with the appearance of the new UCI ProSeries class, which will be introduces further down the road as part of the Agenda 2022.
The new calendar will be organized around the following four classes: UCI Women's WorldTour, UCI ProSeries, 1 and 2, which they say is a model similar to the men.
The purpose of changing the racing structure is to try and further “develop women's cycling while providing a framework adapted to its future growth,” the statement read.
“These measures are part of the UCI Agenda 2022 - submitted tomorrow (Thursday) to the approval of the UCI Congress - which includes an important component related to women's cycling and the place of women in cycling ( at the level of sport and governance).”
Other objectives of Agenda 2022 include reinforcing the UCI Women's WorldTour and the UCI women's teams, and the implementation of equal access to women’s and men’s competitions organized by the UCI and at the Olympic Games, by creating the same formats.
The UCI is also aiming for an equal prize money policy, which will come under recommendation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on gender equality. Looking even further forward to the Paris Olympic Games in 2024, the UCI said that it is committed to achieving complete parity in terms of the number of athletes per discipline and the number of medals it has already reached.