Velorooms Q&A

Check out the latest velorooms Q&A all about women’s cycling.  There are massively differing views, and it’s worth a read.

The responses from our team manager Stef Wyman are here:

Question 1.
In Cookson’s Manifesto, one of the main pledges was minimum wages in women’s cycling, In a video via Sky news published on the 25th of November 2015 he hopped to ‘have a minimum wage in 2 to 3 years’, which will be approximately 5 years after being elected, we have the new womens’ road commission, we have the expanded World Cup re branded as the Women’s World Tour , but once you scratch the surface what has the UCI changed in Women’s cycling? Where could the UCI take on a bigger role?

I don’t feel there have been many real physical changes in women’s cycling since September 2013, certainly not that have been implemented by the UCI.  However that’s not for lack or discussion.  I’m sure that’s not what Mr Cookson hoped for when he was elected but it is the reality.

Certainly over that period the top end of the sport has grown stronger with the might of teams like Wiggle Honda.  However that growth and strength of the top 8 or 10 teams has lead to the weakening of the bottom of the sport as the two halves are driven further and further apart.  That golf between the top and bottom is wider than ever and unless action is taken to ensure a strong future for both parts of the sport I fear for the depth of the sport.

A strong World Tour when it launches in 2017 is essential.  That’s the sports front end, what people will see and understand.  But that part of the sport needs a strong 2nd division. There needs to be competition for places for the World Tour very soon after it’s launched. Presently however, as far as I see it, no thought and time whatsoever has been put into the regulations and purpose of the 2nd division.

The sport has too many teams at the moment, too many weak and underfunded teams.  We have to be prepared for a time of change, with short-term difficulty for the long term good.  Strong decision-making is needed.  Introducing a Minimum salary takes a strong person, who will be drawing a line in the sand for every single female cyclist from that day forward. I haven’t been part of any debate on it, but I’ve seen a lot of random figure and debates batted around on news sites.  Personally, I’d have had the minimum salary coming in at the same time as the World Tour.  I feel that a World Tour without this is simply a change of name and removes some of the legitimacy it could have had. It removes its impact, which really disappoints me.


Question 2.
You have been given the keys to the Palace and have and can make 2 changes to Womens´cycling in 1 hour you can make 1 short term change ie to be implemented on the spot and 1 long term change ie to the implemented over the next 3 year to the way the UCI runs Womens cycling/or a change provided by the private sector what would you do?

Based on my experiences of 2015 in the professional end of the sport, I’d immediately change the entry rules to UCI races, especially the lower lever ones, the .2 races.  These races have an essential role in our sport, but they are turning into a very odd circus which lack regulation as the sports develops.  There are too many teams, not enough focus on quality, far too many non-professional teams (Removing the legitimacy of being a UCI team in the first place), and not enough safety controls.

So my immediate change would be limit the number of club teams in UCI events, and remove national teams from any events from .1 upwards.  We need a sport which fans can relate to.  In Men’s cycling, that’s easy as you have your set of teams, and fans, media and commercial sponsors understand and relate to those participating in the events.   In women’s cycling, you can have 30 plus teams, and the following week, another totally different set of 30 plus teams; it’s no wonder people don’t understand our sport.

As for a long-term change, I’d like a lot of focus to be put onto the entry requirements for the World Tour.  With a clear balance between declared budget and UCI points being the deciding factor.  Part of this would also require a change in the rules to see points scored by a rider remaining with the team they were scored with to stop the ability to purchase a leading team over one winter.  I feel that everything over the next ten years for women’s cycling needs to be about creating a sustainable sport, with increased media and a vastly increased and more visible fan base.  Teams developing riders and then loosing them after being out-bid, should not loose their reward, which is the points they won.

I’d make this change as I feel if we can create a sport of true worth, the World Tour license of a team should be the item of value, the same as it is in men’s cycling. These licenses should be the trading commodity, not the rider points.

Eventually, if the sport can grow and develop in a sustainable fashion, I see no reason why we shouldn’t have a UCI Women’s Cycling President, as well as a Men’s President.  These should both be huge sports, and certainly the combined worth of the two elements will be much bigger than when the role of president was created.  Is it still fair to judge one person on their development of two sports, going in slightly different directions, covering a huge number of disciplines.


Question 3.
The dinner party question! If you could have a dinner party with 5 people from the world of cycling past or present, who would they be and why? Doesn´t have to be Women´s cycling only but ….. 

Nicole Cooke – The best rider I’ve ever worked with on the road. I’ve had many dinners with Nicole, but I’d love to know her thoughts on the sport going forward.

Hanka Kupfernagel – She’s knows this sport inside out. If there was one rider I’d like to collaborate with on a team it’s Hanka.

Sharron Fuller – A BBC employee, who could help change the media fortunes of the sport if we’d embrace the knowledge of such people.

Alan Sugar – As I think I’d like to pitch to him my idea for a team, and be his apprentice.  And more seriously, I’d like a real business perspective to balance discussions going forward, from someone who loves cycling.

Martyn Ashton – He’s there to provide the after dinner speech.  He’s the best in the business at it, loves cycling, has so much passion.  The best.


Question 4.
Much of the promotion of Women’s cycling comes from people like yourselves. What could “we” do better? How can The Social media sector/teams/sponsors/races promote women’s cycling in a better way?

I think it needs to a far more joined up approach.  Some teams are good at social media, some aren’t. The good ones all have their niche. Races at the top end, especially some in the USA have fantastic websites, and use of social media.  I see under the WT proposals a minimum amount of video coverage needs to be produced, but I think we will see a vast array of quality and types of coverage.

Some kind of review of current practice needs to be carried out and a standard formula (Minimum standards) put in place as part of the registration process of a race.  For example, every race should have a website with a minimum amount of information on it….like a start time, a sheet of places and times the race passes, results.

A simple central twitter account with someone travelling the World Tour Scene tweeting directly from races would be easy, cheap (ish) and hugely productive.  A central pool of photo’s for teams/press etc to use, timing chips so results are quickly published.  Simple things, huge benefits.

In women’s cycling, teams are good at highlighting their own achievements, but actually, we all need to be a little less self-focused, and try to grow the sport in general.  Each slice of bigger cake is going to be much more fulfilling than a big wedge of the tiny little cup cake we have now.


Question 5.
In 5 years’ time, what will be the biggest issue in women´s cycling? Who will be the riders  (female) – that we will be discussing as the stars of the sport?

I’d like to think that in 5 years we’d be discussing new riders that are youth riders right now, or perhaps who haven’t even picked up a bike.  I’d like to think that not many people have heard of them yet.  These riders can be inspired by the current generation, like Lizzie and Pauline, and hopefully get to fulfil their dreams of not only riding with these stars, but also beating them.

I’d also like to see these rider surrounded by the stars of today, who haven’t grown disillusioned and left the sport.  Riders that are enjoying a long and healthy career in supportive and dynamic environments.

I’m confident the sport will get bigger and better, and the future for these riders will be excellent. I wouldn’t have a team with young promising riders if I didn’t feel they had a future.  So, you might even see one of them as a household name.