Any women’s professional cycling team registered with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) will now be able to join a new advocacy association. UNIO, which launched earlier this month, aims to safeguard and promote the interests of professional women’s cycling teams worldwide.
In a press release from the organization, Ronny Lauke, team director of Canyon-SRAM and UNIO president, stated that the impetus to form UNIO came from the lack of a collective voice among the teams.
“I’ve been involved in women’s cycling for 12 years and what we’ve missed until now is a united voice where all the teams can share their interest in the sport and cooperate with the UCI and race organizers for the better of the sport.”
The group’s objectives include the development of grassroots women’s cycling, the promotion of its members toward interested third parties like sponsors, and to improve economic opportunities for all members. According to Danny Stam, team director for Boels-Dolmans, these objectives can only be met with more open communication between all stakeholders.
“All the women’s teams want to have a voice, to have talks with the UCI and other organizations involved in women’s cycling about how we get women’s cycling to a better level,” he said. “It’s not just saying what’s not good and not right, but more that we want to have open conversations and hear from all the teams.”
While the UCI recently adopted new rules for women’s WorldTeams such as minimum salary and maternity benefits, Stam noted that the governing body could have consulted with the teams in question before issuing the mandate.
“We all want to speak about safety, prize money, salaries,” he said. “It would be nicer if we all agreed before we launched something like this. I think there are a lot of problems, small problems, that can be easily solved with communication.”
UNIO’s primary activity is to represent the interests of every member before the cycling governing bodies. This means, said Stam, that any team who is experiencing an issue can elevate its importance by presenting it to the organization. “We’re stronger together,” he said.
While many women’s teams have been operating in isolation and learned to problem-solve independently, the formation of UNIO offers a safety net. It also includes the larger goal of elevating women’s cycling in general. Without a collective bargaining voice, said Stam, this goal would remain unattainable.
“Women’s cycling is not a short-term project,” he said. “It’s a long-term project, and we’ll only make an impact together with one voice.”