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The Tour of Flanders will see equal prize money for men and women in 2022.
Race organizer Flanders Classics had already planned to offer an equal amount of money in 2023 as part of its “closing the gap” program with finance company KPMG. However, Belgian publication De Tijd reports that De Ronde will go one year earlier than the rest of the company’s other events.
That means that the winner of this year’s women’s Tour of Flanders prize pot will be a cool 50,000 euros ($56.7k).
“This season we are making the effort to increase the prize money in the women’s edition of the Tour of Flanders to 50,000 euros, the same amount that is distributed among the winners in the men’s edition,” Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel told De Tijd. “From 2023, the intention is to equalize the prize money for all our spring competitions.”
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Prize money offerings have been a controversial topic in women’s cycling with the vast majority of events still offering fairly small amounts in comparison to similar men’s races.
In the past, Flanders Classics has been criticized for its prize money at women’s races with Anna van der Breggen taking home €930 ($1,100) for winning Omloop Het Niewsblad in 2021 compared to Davide Ballerini’s prize purse of €16,000 ($19,500).
However, Flanders Classics is one of the few organizers that have an equal amount of men’s and women’s road races with a strong television offering.
Last year, the organizer introduced a women’s Scheldeprijs, the last road race without a female peloton for the company.
I do absolutely understand the concerns about equal pay in cycling and I do not mind the debate but let me try to give you some more context. Cycling in general, for most stakeholders (there are few exceptions most of us know), is not the most economically attractive sport.
— Tomas Van Den Spiegel (@tomasvds) March 2, 2021
Van Den Spiegel has previously defended his races’ prize pots for women and said that, while the intention would always be to level it up, money for the winners was always a small piece of a very big puzzle.
“Our take on that is that women’s cycling still has a lot of challenges ahead. Prize money is one of them, it’s a very symbolic one and probably the easiest to understand in the whole business model of cycling today,” Van Den Spiegel told VeloNews in an interview last year.
“Giving equal prize money today is not going to make the difference for the sport. The difference is going to be made in the TV coverage, it’s going to be made in better wages for the riders, in more attractiveness of the product for sponsors.
“I think it needs a broader perspective, it’s not something that will solve the challenges that women’s cycling still has to defy in the short or long term. Of course, it’s very important and you can’t underestimate it, but I think wages and start money is as important as prize money.”
A standalone product
At this time, Flanders Classics’ women’s races are all held on the same day as the respective men’s events.
Through the “closing the gap” plan, Van Den Spiegel hopes to be able to host all of its elite road races on separate days with the option to offer television rights on an individual basis. While it hasn’t happened yet, the Belgian former basketball player is encouraged by the recent growth of women’s cycling.
“We don’t do social work here,” Van Den Spiegel told De Tijd. “The resources are invested in a very targeted manner to achieve a more professional women’s cycling. That is why, from this year on, we are also focusing on the organization of races in the youth categories, so that the base is broadened. You notice that the interest is increasing. Last year there were nine teams at the highest level, this season already 14.
“We still face a lot of obstacles. No money has yet been paid for the TV rights of women’s races. We are also still too dependent on the men’s race that is run on the same day for income from sponsorship and VIP packages. We have to arrive at a product that can stand on its own as much as possible.
“We believe in that commercial potential. If you see where the sport was ten years ago, we have made huge strides. It is important to continue this growth with a new multi-year plan.”