The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA) released the final results of their annual rider survey, revealing an increase in concern for safety at races and a broader disparity among individuals who race on the World Tour level and those on lower-tier teams.
While riders polled from the 15 squads of the Women’s WorldTour saw income growth, the survey found wider income gaps among other rider and more riders without salaries. A total of 25% of all respondents said they received no salary or income, which is up slightly from 23% in 2022.
Disparities are broader from respondents who compete outside the World Tour, as 41% said they have been unpaid or have no salary. More than 70% of riders outside the WorldTour earned less than €10,000 a year, which is less than minimum wage in most countries, the TCA noted.
“In road cycling, the wage gap between the World Tour and Continental riders continues to widen,” the full report noted as a cause for concern with salaries.
“The growing disparity between riders who earn a salary and those who don’t makes it more difficult for riders to compete on a level playing field.”
The UCI increased minimum salaries for Women’s WorldTeams in 2023 to €32,102 (employed) / €52,647 (self-employed) in 2023. The salary structure also included a neo-pro minimum salary of €26,849 (employed) / €44,032 (self-employed). From the WorldTour respondents, 34% said they earn more than €50,000, which is up 11% from 2022.
While the majority of respondents recognised “financial reasons” for leaving the sport in the future, 35% were concerned about physical safety, and many noted “racing is too dangerous”.
There have been a number of rider protests at women’s, and men’s, races this year about safety. In June, the CIC-Tour Feminin International des Pyrénées 2023 was called off after two stages over safety concerns. In August, the men’s peloton delayed the stage 2 of the Vuelta a España over an unsafe finish and GC times were taken 9km from the end of the route.
The survey, conducted for a sixth time in June 2023, represented input from 140 women in the professional ranks across 31 countries and regions, who had experience from 56 cycling teams and five cycling disciplines. The majority of respondents had raced in the professional ranks for three or more years. It is the only survey that is carried out annually for international professional women’s cycling, gathering direct quantitative and qualitative feedback from pro riders.
The TCA had issued early findings in August, and now summarised that the top issue for female professional cyclists was for all riders to earn a minimum salary. Secondly, 58% of respondents wanted better safety protocols at races. Other findings with more 40-42% of respondents noting areas of change included an increase in live TV coverage at races, professional standards met for support team staff, and more racing opportunities for developing riders.
Many riders suggested they did not have the appropriate equipment to do their jobs and had to pay for items themselves. A total of 26% said they had to dip into personal funds to pay for items obligated as team expenses, such as UCI blood tests or bicycle repair. Several noted that equipment or clothing provided by a team was ‘unsafe’, such as helmets.
“For riders outside World Tour, the relative lack of regulations and enforcement means that many female elite cyclists are fulfilling contractual obligations with no financial compensation in return. What’s worse those riders may make a loss through costs incurred,” the study noted.
UCI regulations require that all riders on WorldTour teams must have several types of insurance and a pension plan, with the teams providing the benefits to employed riders and ensuring that self-employed riders have similar benefits for themselves. The survey found that only 40% of the employed WorldTour riders confirmed they had a pension plan. “This suggests that teams are not offering contracts which comply with the regulations” the TCA said in the final report.
The survey also found that more riders are using agents. This year, 32% of riders sought legal assistance for their contract negotiations, while 9% received advice from an agent. A year ago, only 15% of riders in the survey used legal assistance with contracts.
The next steps from the final report state: “TCA encourages all fans and stakeholders in women’s cycling to read and share the findings in this report. TCA believes the only way to create improvements in women’s cycling is to work together. TCA will be approaching stakeholders in the coming weeks to address the issues raised in this report.”