Cyclocross took a huge step towards equality today with the announcement of an under 23 women’s category and a huge increase in prize money for the women’s World Cup.
The U23 category will come into place for the 2016 Cyclocross World Championships and prize money will increase over the 2015-2016 season.
We caught up with nine times National Cyclocross Champion and member of the UCI Cyclocross Commission, Helen Wyman, to find out what a difference these steps will make.
She told me: “The prize money for the overall World Cup win will be €20,000. The prize for the men’s is €30,000, and last year for women it was just €12,000. That’s fantastic. That’s a significant, life-changing sum of money.”
That’s fantastic. That’s a significant, life-changing sum of money
The money for individual World Cup race wins, paid for by race organisers, has increased, too – but it’s the overall win funded by the UCI that marks the biggest increase.
Wyman believes the changes will encourage riders to focus more on specific races, and will also keep more talent in the sport. She said: “It’s more than doubling their wages, if they win one of these rounds. That means women can stay in this sport, they don’t need to go somewhere else to get more money, they can do what they love, which should keep the talent in.”
That means women can stay in this sport, they don’t need to go somewhere else to get more money
The addition of the U23 category will mean that young riders have a chance to shine, rather than being “battered every week until they get good enough,” as Helen explains: “At the minute you turn 16 and you’re an elite woman, which is a bit hash.
“Having an under 23 category at Worlds is what we’ve needed for a long time. It is quite tough… there is the odd exception, like Marianne [Vos] won one Worlds when she was 18, but others are older. A lot of the podium winners are well into their late 20s, early 30s, it’s really important that you encourage riders and give them something to aim for that is more achievable.
Wyman sits on the UCI commission, alongside recently elected Marianne Vos – she said: “We’re moving in the right direction. I would love equality instantly but unfortunately no matter how hard I try it’s not possible.
“I have an agenda to change everything – I plan to work with the committee to make sure we set a time scale, and we stick to that time scale as to when we get equality.”
She added: “The UCI are open to changes, they just need people to push that change. I do believe that in the next three years we will have equal prize money.”
I do believe that in the next three years we will have equal prize money
Aside from the prize money, Wyman also wants to work towards increasing the length of races – she said: “We’re working on increasing the races to 50 minutes. At the moment it’s a minimum of 40 minutes, which means it’s usually about 45 minutes. You need the U23 category to start to flourish… now we take out the 16-year-old’s, and make it not so hard for them, we can get the 50 minutes quite easily.”
The changes put cyclocross well ahead of the game in terms of prize money equality, when compared to road and mountain bike disciplines. Wyman said: “Cyclocross is already at a better place when compared to road racing. We do benefit from all races being on the same day, every single UCI cyclocross race has to have a women’s race. Road racing it’s very, very different.”
She added: “Cyclocross is a very financially viable sport, and for them it’s not so difficult to add a women’s race. Women’s racing on the road is also much harder because there’s a history there. I think they can change things, but it’s going to take probably a lot longer.”
Check this link for a full breakdown of the new prize allocations in cyclocross.
We’re super excited to hear about this news – and hope it’s the beginning of more great changes in the sport. Here are five of the biggest issues in women’s cycling that need to be addressed.