(For those new to cycling, the UCI, the Union Cycliste International, is the World governing body of cycling.)
is the state of Womenís Cycling?" This is the question asked of Pat McQuaid,
the President of the UCI. WCN sat down for a few minutes at the World Track
Championships in Bordeaux (April 2006) with the one man who can directly
influence what happens in the development, control and more importantly the
respect for Womenís cycling, the Irishman at the head of the UCI.
There are many observers of the womenís peleton and cycling for women around the world. To them there have been many improvements, but many would say that there is still a long way to go to get womenís cycling the respect, recognition and reward it deserves. There are riders in professional teams who are not paid, they are simply given kit and loaned a bike, in other teams, the situation is a little better and in others, riders are paid a salary which they can live on. None of the riders though, earn anything like the salaries earned by those in a similar position in the menís peleton.
Hereís the interview>>
WCN : What is the UCI doing to take womenís cycling to the next level?
PMcQ : Itís true we have made huge strides over the past 10 years to move cycling forward in the last few years. I was President of the road commission and since I have been involved and responsible for women, it was important to ensure that we had the development of the World Cup. This was very much the major item on the agenda a few years ago. I also wanted to make sure that it was truly a World Cup and not a European one like the menís competition. I have always worked hard within the UCI to ensure and maintain an Australian and New Zealand connection. We even have a Scandinavian link now with the races this year [There will be a World Cup in Sweden and one in Denmark in 2006, at the end of July]. This World Cup series in one that we have developed and is a programme that is well accepted and supported by the teams and embraced by them.
WCN : Isnít it true, though, that an even larger number of well funded trade teams are going to be an important part of the success of the World Cup?
we have gone down the road to develop trade teams, we still have a lot of
work to do there. This is an area we need to invest some time in. Womenís
racing is a lot less administratively structured than the mens racing. We
are trying to put in place structures for the teams and getting Team
Directors and Team Managers to accept a disciplined
structure which is fair. This means that there is some element of
security, so that there is less skull-duggery and other serious issues going
on. We do intervene when we hear of issues happening to protect the rights
and interest of the women. In the last year we
have set up the womenís union [the womenís CPA] under the wing of
the mens union [CPA]. This is something that the men have been
developing over the last 10-15 years that the women can now take benefit
WCN : You talk
about investigating issue and making sure that women are not treated badly,
yet we still see so called professional teams not paying riders or paying so
little that it is an insult to their sport. What are the UCI doing about
getting a minimum wage for women?.
PMcQ : The fact that this is a global makes it difficult to enforce. Even at the menís level, we can only set minimum salaries at the very highest level, for the pro-tour teams and some continental pro-tour team levels. Even at the continental pro-tour level it is difficult to enforce. We have 130 teams in the menís side and we canít dictate a minimum wages in France and Ukraine. Even in the menís teams we have problems developing teams outside Europe because of the minimum wage. We also have problems enforcing the minimum wage outside Europe. The best we can strive and hope for in both the menís and the womenís sport, is that there is, at least a small salary or at minimum, good contracts and conditions of employment. In the end it is always a matter of money and sponsorship. Our aim is to develop the programme and to facilitate high quality of racing like the World Cup, so that there is an interest for entrepreneurs to go out there and get sponsorship for the teams. The teams need people who are tuned into the womenís market to go out there and get sponsors. There are some very successful teams now with good backing. Teams like T-Mobile, Univega, NŁrnberger and the two Dutch teams are setting the standard for others to emulate their standard. We are encouraging this.
WCN : With
sponsorship in mind, how are the women ever going to attract additional
sponsors if they are pushed out to the extremes of the day, where TV
coverage is sporadic and spectators are few. The road World Championships in
Madrid were a prime example, the women were warming up in the dark and
racing before the world and TV had woken up. At the same Championships, the
U23 Men, who have the opportunity to step up to senior level, raced in the
middle of the day, taking the timeslot from the professional women who are
at the pinnacle of their sport.
PMcQ : The decision of the
timing is decided by the federation hosting the event. We will work with
them but it is their decision. It is not always fixed to the women starting
in the morning. In other races, in the Netherlands for example, the
womenís race on Saturday afternoons. They have success in supporting the
women. When you talk about media coverage the Track World Championships were
covered live on national television, in France, Russia, Ukraine, Muldavia
and Belarus, thatís 1/ 6th of the world's land mass. There was
a lot of coverage going to the women of that event. The spectators watching
at the track said that the womenís racing was equally exciting as the
menís. The worldís media has to help to promote women. They are the
worst, the problem is they are traditionalist, and are very much tuned into
the menís racing, they seem to have closed their eyes to womenís racing.
I have watched the finish of womenís road racing, where the women finish
earlier than the men, at the Primavera Rosa last year,
[the race was cancelled this year]. The media were having a
coffee when the women finish and clearly not interested. This is changing;
at the World Track Championships the media covered every event regardless of
male or female. Unfortunately track racing is unique, but hopefully this
will translate onto the road and it is starting to. All we can do at the UCI
is to keep promoting the programme, trying to protect the riders rights and
put quality racing on that the media want to cover.
Womenís racing is
more global than the menís in some respects. Some would view that it is
ahead of menís racing. We know that there is a lot more to do but we
canít change it over night, it will take time.
I believe that the
women need to develop stars like the Netherlands had with Leontien Zijlaard
van-Moorsal, like Nicole Cooke has done in the UK, like Oenone Wood and Sara
Carrigan from Australia and Sarah Ulmer in New Zealand; she is one of the
biggest stars in New Zealand. Success will breed success.
WCN : Thanks for your time, Pat
Pat McQuaid at the Bordeaux World Track Championships in 2006
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