In 2019 I committed to providing the same coverage to womens' pro racing as I do for the men at the Tour de France, but in 2020, there was a difference. COVID-19 and the disruption to the season meant my viewer metrics and usage patterns had changed, and I had the potential to talk about women's cycling to a whole new audience. These were about more than race results; I wanted to share some of the most obvious differences in the way women's cycling is treated as a second class citizen by governing bodies and race organisers. Disappointingly, I got the same feel from some cycling fans in the comments too. What follows is a selection of the charts I prepared and shared on CyclingTips and Instagram.
There were a couple of charts that compared the number of stages in the Giro d'Italia and the Giro Rosa (in Italy), and the Tour de France and La Course (in France), and those charts are frustrating and annoying. But the truly heartbreaking storyline reveals itself when you follow the money. As always, you can mouse over the charts for more detail.
Comparing prize money
This chart shows the prize money on offer (in Euros) to the winner of the general classification in the worlds biggest men's stage race - the Tour de France, and the Giro Rosa - the worlds biggest women's stage race.
This is not a happy chart, and it's sad to say that it's the chart that has generated the most traction across my three years of grand tour coverage. To put that into perspective, the bike that an athlete rides in the Giro Rosa costs significantly more than that (ignoring the time trial bike, and the multiple spare bikes).
What's the difference between the minimum wage levels for men and women in professional cycling? 2020 was the first year the UCI mandated a minimum wage for womens' WorldTeams. However, that minimum is less that 50% of the minimum wage of a male WorldTour neo-pro (a neo-pro is a first year pro). In 2021, the women's minimum increases to 20,000 Euros, and remains less than 50% of the minimum wage for professional men.
How does this make sense?
(The chart above assumes the continuation of an annual 2% wage growth for men's salary for 2021 - UCI minimums haven't been published yet for men's salaries.)
Comparing cycling salaries to minimum wage
This chart compares the average legal minimum wage (in Euros) across European cycling countries in January 2020 with UCI mandated minimums for male and female top tier cycling teams (2020 numbers). The Womens' WorldTeam minimum is more than 15% less than minimum wage of 17,767 Euros. Countries included in this analysis: France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany.
Put another way: a majority of female pro cyclists could make more money in Europe literally doing anything other than cycling.