Women’s Tour aim for prize money equality after 2021 setback

Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) at the Women's Tour 2021
Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) at the Women's Tour 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

SweetSpot, the organisers of both the men’s Tour of Britain and the Women’s Tour, will ‘absolutely’ aim to restore parity in financial prize money across both races in 2022 after the women’s purse was cut this year.

The two races shared equal prize money in 2018 and 2019 with OVO – the previous sponsor of the Women’s Tour – kicking in roughly £10,000 in order to give parity with the men’s Tour of Britain. The UCI regulations stipulate that men’s and women’s races have to provide a minimum prize fund and while SweetSpot abide by those regulations the Women’s Tour has seen the prize fund drop with the overall winner set to take home just under €3,000 this year. In 2019, the winner of the women’s race enjoyed a fund of around €14,000. OVO stepped back from their sponsorship with AJ Bell taking over the title sponsorship this year.

“In 2019 it was our sponsor that put the additional money in. We’ve always been up on the minimum that the UCI stipulate with us and we’re about 10 grand above the UCI, which is quite a considerable amount of money,” SweetSpot’s Mick Bennett told Cyclingnews.

Bennett pointed to the fact that OVO no longer sponsored the women’s race and that the Women’s Tour was postponed in 2020 and again from its early time slot in 2021 due to COVID. He also pointed out that it wasn’t as simple as striping funds from the men’s race in order to provide equality as SweetSpot still needed to ensure that they met the UCI’s minimum prize fund for the Tour of Britain.

“We’ve had a really tough year to put this event on with COVID. It’s been 28 months and we’ve had to postpone. We could always put it to our sponsor but our sponsor came in very, very late, like three or four weeks before this event. So what do you do? The commercial reality is there. I can’t deny that it’s less than the men had for the Tour of Britain but that’s also the minimum and the UCI set the regulations, not me.”

Lizzie Deignan, who recently won the first women’s Paris-Roubaix and would have taken home a tiny prize fund until her Trek-Segafredo team matched the prize fund from the men’s race – admitted that while it was disappointing that the Women’s Tour could not provide parity they should be given time due to the circumstances.

“I didn’t know about that and obviously it’s disappointing, but I’d be hesitant to be too critical about the organisation of the Women’s Tour right now because instead of cancellation that’s been a postponement and that represents the fact that there’s been so much hard work behind the scenes to keep this race going,” she told Cyclingnews.

“The basics are so good, from the safety to the organisation, it’s still one of the best in the world so I’d be hesitant this year and hope that next year’s it's rectified because I believe that it will be.”

Bennett added that while the prize money situation was not ideal this year his main focus was on rider safety, and that the aim was to restore parity between the men’s and women’s race next year.

“We wanted to come in with what we’ve always given the women. If we’d had more money then we would have given more. That’s just the reality. Once you’ve done a deal with a sponsor for this year, and this year only, you can’t then go back and ask for money. We’ve still got to survive as a company in order to put this on.”

Asked if equal prize money was a major aim for 2022 the organiser replied: “Absolutely.”

“Our biggest issue is the safety of the riders. We spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on the safety of the riders and that will always be my priority. We have 74 motorcycles on a road closure – that’s unheard of. There’s no other event on the planet that has that, and we need to keep the peloton safe. I put that way above prize money.”

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