The UCI doesn't even require teams to pay women a minimum salary.
The UCI announced last week that for the first time in five years, some professional cyclists are getting a pay raise. The minimum salary for men will rise to €38,115 (around $57,000) for WorldTour teams and to €30,885 (approx $46,000) for Professional Continental teams in 2018.
Curiously absent from the announcement was a pay raise for women. That’s because there’s no minimum salary for women in the professional peloton. In fact, women’s teams can continue to race without paying their riders a salary at all.
The lack of parity between the men’s and women’s teams has a long, persistent history. Some elite women have held off-season jobs to fill the gaps that racing opens in their incomes. Three-time World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, for example, served in the Italian military during her cycling career.
To some observers, the sport’s governing body, the UCI (official name: the Union Cycliste Internationale), views women’s cycling as an afterthought.
“The reason the UCI has not instituted a women’s base salary is because they do not value women equally to men,” says Katheryn Bertine, a women’s cycling advocate and former pro.
That the UCI governs women’s cycling under the same rules as the lowest tier of professional men’s teams, known as Continental teams, seems to reinforce this perspective. The men’s Continental teams (as opposed to the mid-tier Professional Continental teams) don’t have a minimum wage, so the women don’t receive one, either. Arguably, the rulebook is misguided on both accounts.
Typically, the men’s Continental teams serve as a proving ground for young riders who hope to make the jump to a WorldTour team. Salaries are rarely public in cycling, but four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is believed to make more than €4 million a year (about $6m). Many support riders in the men’s peloton earn six-figure salaries, which offer at least some compensation for the low salaries of their early careers.
The women’s WorldTour teams, by contrast, represent the top level of the sport. They compete in the biggest races and their rosters include world champions. Though these top teams may develop young riders, it isn’t their principal role.
“The fact that there is no base salary at the WorldTour level, let alone any salary structure in place for professional women—that is wrong on every level,” Bertine says.