A deserved place for women’s cycling
A huge advocate of women’s cycling, UCI President Brian Cookson is constantly working to improve the lot of our sport’s female athletes. As a result of measures that he has put in place, the recognition and popularity of women’s cycling has reached unprecedented heights.
More women involved in the sport’s administration, increased media coverage of events and a new commission devoted entirely to women’s cycling are among the initiatives introduced by Mr Cookson.
The UCI President supported the election by the Management Committee of Tracey Gaudry as one of the three UCI Vice-Presidents and the first-ever woman to occupy this position. The UCI is taking other steps too.
2013 saw the creation of a Women’s Commission, headed by Ms. Gaudry and including representatives of the entire cycling family. Its mission is to advise the UCI and other commissions on all matters relating to women’s cycling. The Women’s Commission actively participated in projects such as the creation of the UCI Women’s WorldTour and the equalisation of prize money across the different disciplines.
Aware that this commission would need support from all spheres of cycling, Mr Cookson also appointed at least one woman to all the other UCI Commissions. The benefits of this are two-fold:
• ensuring a certain gender balance in discussions of all commissions;
• promoting a constant exchange of information between the Women’s Commission and all other commissions.
The UCI has also increased staffing levels for women’s cycling projects, and thanks to this, more attention is now paid to the global communications plan for women’s cycling, across all disciplines. Exciting projects for the different disciplines continue to be developed and are revealed as they see the light of day.
The fact that there is the same number of medals for men and women in cycling at the summer Olympic Games is a demonstration of the high esteem already held for women in our sport. Across our four Olympic disciplines - road, track, mountain bike and BMX - the women’s competitions are intense and exciting, attracting incredible media attention and large crowds of fans. Our other disciplines - cyclo-cross, indoor cycling, trials and para-cycling - also enjoy strong participation from women, and our UCI World Champions fly the flag high for their sport.
The UCI is also committed to ensuring that there is a large pool of young riders ready to take over from the current Elite athletes. Many young women are among the athletes who train at the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland. Each year, promising riders from different disciplines benefit from expert coaching and advice that help them rise to the highest possible level. A number of the WCC’s former trainees have gone on to shine at UCI World Championships and Olympic Games, not least track cyclists such as Great Britain’s Victoria Pendleton (double Olympic Champion - 2008 and 2012 - and nine world titles), China’s Guo Shuang (four Olympic medals - 2008 and 2012 - and 2009 keirin UCI World Champion) and Lisandra Guerra, from Cuba, who was 500m UCI World Champion in 2008. UCI WCC trainees have also excelled in the BMX discipline: Stefany Hernandez (Venezuela) was crowned UCI World Champion in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, in 2015, one year after Domenica Azuero Gonzalez, from Ecuador, won the Junior UCI BMX World Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The growing number of Elite women athletes and the increased opportunities for women’s racing should be reflected in the number of women working in cycling professions . In 2013, the UCI WCC organised an all-women’s coaching course as part of its Coaching Development Programme. This drew 10 participants from Finland, South Africa, Iran, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Japan, Uganda, Hong Kong and Salvador. These qualified coaches can now provide expert coaching advice to young athletes in their own countries, thus raising the level of women’s cycling even further.
To encourage more women to complete the UCI WCC training course for Sport Directors, the UCI offered scholarships to seven women participating in the course in 2015. This initiative continues.
The development of women’s cycling continues to gain momentum, and the UCI pursues its work to bring it to even greater heights.