The landmark £50,000 (AU$96,882) Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire and €100,000 (AU$152,920) Prudential Ride London were confirmed within days of each other this week as women’s sport in general made a stance on equality.
In a report on Thursday, U.S. Soccer was accused of wage discrimination with five national team players filing a federal complaint that claimed the women’s squad earned as little as 40 per cent of the comparatively mediocre men’s outfit.
Australian cyclist Rachel Neylan (Orica-AIS) said the parity party sweeping the UK was icing on the cake of the rapidly developing women’s cycling scene, which has been boosted with the introduction of the UCI Women’s WorldTour this year.
“As soon as Yorkshire announced [their event] Ride London followed,” Neylan said. “Just the sheer time difference in one matching the other is significant, it’s a really encouraging sign in our favour. There is no reason why there shouldn’t be parity.”
Neylan is hopeful the two landmark events in the UK, which will both have live broadcast coverage on major national networks, will trigger a snowball effect across events financially able to offer the same.
“I guess there is an element of competitiveness in terms of organising. People want to have the best races and nobody wants to seem like they’re being discriminative,” she said.
“You’ve got to be realistic as well. A lot of the races in Europe, it’s not economically viable for them to actually be able to leverage the same sort of sponsorship and they simply can’t justify the same prize money because otherwise they’re not going to get the same return for the sponsors.
“But the feeling in the women’s peloton is absolutely one of delight and excitement at the moment,” Neylan continued. “It’s a great place to be, it’s moving very, very quickly and a lot of people are becoming more engaged in women’s cycling and realising the quality, the speed and the product.”
The Tour de Yorkshire and Ride London will operate their one-day races on slightly different business models. The latter will run the July 30 women’s competition a day before the men’s event while Yorkshire will stage its 136km test on the same day and course of stage two of the men’s tour.
Neylan is a fan of the concurrent scheduling, which she compared to tennis. She referred to La Course, the women’s one-day race on the Champs Elysees in Paris held just before the start of the final stage of the Tour de France, as a backing example.
“Even if you had the Champs Elysees and [race organiser] the ASO there’s no way [La Course] would be the same because you don’t have the fans there and we need to accept that,” she said.
“It’s not that we’re piggy backing [off the men’s event], it’s just like women’s tennis. You put the women in the same tournament, the fans are there, the signage, the sponsorship, the staging, the media, the broadcast, it’s just logical.
“I think we can still market ourselves as women, as our own product, but we don’t have to be a separate road show,” she continued.
“There are very few people following cycling at the moment who would not be all eyes and ears to watch a women’s race while they’re standing on the roadside before a men’s race. They start following us on social media and they become engaged fans of the women’s side of the sport.
“It only takes one or two events of exposure.”