Today, the UCI announced that they’d be raising the minimum wages for some professional cyclists. The lowest paid male riders at the WorldTour and Pro Continental level will now make around €2,000 and €650 more per year respectively, with guaranteed salaries of €38,115 for WorldTour racers and €30,855 for Pro Continental racers. Neo-pros will make slightly less. That’s not much, but cycling’s had plenty of dire financial problems in the recent past, and an increase is still an increase. It’s good!
What is not good is that the UCI still has not guaranteed a minimum wage for women. If men’s salaries seem low, well at least they have them. An embarrassing amount of professional riders have to hold down other jobs to make a pro cycling career work, and even Marianne Vos, the greatest of all time, said she considered herself a “full time hobby cyclist.” Frenchman David Lappartient just dethroned UCI czar Brian Cookson last week and one plank of his platform was increased support for women’s cycling. One way to support women in pro cycling: guarantee them a minimum wage.
Cookson also ran on implementing a minimum wage, although he quickly backed off that position and made the case that guaranteeing women salaries would hurt the sport and scare off sponsors. That not only misses the point that not every sponsor gets into cycling for hard financial gain, it ignores the fact that the UCI itself could do so much more to promote women’s cycling and actually broadcast the fucking races. There is a diverse group of stars in the women’s peloton right now (including several Americans), and the UCI should not get off because they don’t know how to market them to sponsors or put races on YouTube.
Could paying women the same as their male counterparts scare off sponsors? Maybe. Would paying them a baseline amount of money hurt the sport? No. Lappartient won the UCI presidency because he convinced people he was serious about following up on the crusted-over promises of the Cookson era. It remains to be seen if he will, but passing the buck on a minimum wage is a bad start. Pay the riders.