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Cyclists’ Alliance finds 25 per cent of professional female cyclists receive no salary

Wage disparity continues to grow in the women's peloton

The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA) has released its fourth annual rider survey. The alliance, run by current and former pros, provides holistic support to female cyclists during and after their careers, helping them make a living from the sport.

This year’s survey highlighted some areas of progress, along with key issues that need to be improved in women’s cycling. The most notable finding was an increase in professional female cyclists who receive no salary. In 2019 TCA reported 17 per cent of professional riders received zero salary—in 2020 that number jumped to 25 per cent. In their key findings report, TCA says they believe further investigation is needed to understand why this continues to increase.

The survey, which was open to all professional cycling disciplines as well as U23, Continental and Women’s WorldTour level cyclists, found that wage disparity is growing between the highest and lowest paid riders. One third of the cyclists surveyed had to work a second job while racing professionally.

This January the UCI introduced a minimum salary as part of the Women’s WorldTour reforms. Though the eight Women’s WorldTeams are required to pay riders a salary plus social and health benefits, the 47 continental teams are still not obliged to pay riders a salary. Many riders (32 per cent) earn less than €15,000 per year.

There are improvements

For the second year in a row, TCA found that more riders were seeking legal advice before signing their employment contract. The number of riders required to reimburse their team for services essential to complete their job as a professional cyclist has decreased by eight per cent since 2019. However, 43 per cent of riders surveyed still reimbursed their team for either equipment, mechanical service, medical costs and/or travel costs in 2020.

Though wage disparity is an issue, the top end salaries in the Women’s World Tour continue to rise above the fixed minimum gross annual salary,  with 25.5 per cent of cyclists earning €30.000+.

New concerns

This season presented unique strains on the already finically precarious situation of many female cyclists. 29 per cent of female pro cyclists saw a salary reduction or completely lost their salary due to COVID-19. Understandably, 76 per cent of riders are concerned it will impact their ability to secure a contract for next season.

When asked why they would consider leaving the sport or retiring early, 72 per cent of professional female cyclists cited financial reasons.