Culture

PYSO, ep. 59: The Cyclists’ Alliance founder Iris Slappendel on creating change

Women's cycling is "becoming a professional sport, but it's not there yet," says the former pro. Hear what she's doing about it.

After being elected by her racing peers to serve on the athlete’s commission for the UCI in 2015, Iris Slappendel quickly realized that there was no overarching structure of support for female riders. So, she created one. The Cyclists’ Alliance was founded in 2017 to support female racers during and after their careers.

The Cyclists’ Alliance is a union funded by donations and subscriptions. Approximately one third of the women’s peloton are paying members, Slappendel says.

As a veteran former racer, Slappendel talks with PYSO hosts and former racers Bobby Julich and Gus Morton about the discrepancies between women’s and men’s unions for riders, and how they all interact with the UCI.

“It took me 10 years, but I realized there’s no one holding teams or anyone accountable for how the riders are treated,” Slappendel said of her thought process behind starting The Cyclists’ Alliance. “And I think that was the spark that started me thinking about a union or at least having a better representation of the riders and the stakeholders.”

Slappendel says that while the sport has made strides forward since 2004 when she began racing — there are more top riders, more riders who are able to live from the sport, more good races” — that the sport still has a long way to go.

“It’s becoming a professional sport, but it’s not there yet,” she said.

Listen in for a fascinating conversation on the dynamics of life as a female professional rider.