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The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift ended Sunday with what’s being hyped is the biggest paycheck in women’s cycling, but is it enough?
That question is swirling around just days after the highly successful debut edition in what nearly everyone agrees was an absolute home run for women’s cycling.
The €250,000 prize money for the inaugural Tour de France Femmes — which actually came in at €247,530 — matches the biggest payday in women’s cycling.
When the champagne bottles ran dry after Sunday’s final stage, officials revealed how the winner’s shares were split out.
And no surprise, Annemiek Van Vleuten and her Movistar Team, with two stage wins and the overall victory, brings home the nearly a quarter of the entire pot with €62,440.
Second is team SD-Worx, with the second-place podium and the points jersey with Demi Vollering, along with top placings, with €46,490. Canyon-SRAM, with Kasia Niewiadoma in third, brought home €25,550.
Three teams – Arkéa Pro Cycling, Human Powered Health and Strade Rochelais Charente Maritime — did not earn any prize money at all across eight stages of racing.
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How the prize money compares
In the aftermath of the race, many have been quick to point out the discrepancy between the inaugural women’s edition, and the men’s total prize pot that divvied out in Paris for the Tour de France last month, with a total purse of €2,257,000.
Run the math, and the women’s purse is about one-tenth the size of the men’s edition.
Just how do the prize money purses compare?
In the women’s race, Movistar was top with just more than €62,000. Jumbo-Visma, which won six stages, the overall as well as the green and polka-dot jersey, earned €779,750 in the men’s Tour.
Van Vleuten won €50,000 with the overall title, while Jonas Vingegaard won the €500,000 first prize for the 2022 Tour.
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In contrast to the men’s Tour, where every finisher in Paris received at least €1,000, three entire teams in the Tour de France Femmes received no prize money at all.
Astana Qazaqstan, which was the last place team in the men’s Tour, received €15,000 despite not winning a stage. In the Tour de France de Femmes, that was about the same amount of money earned by Trek-Segafredo, which was the seventh-ranked team by earnings.
The men’s Tour de France — a three-week grand tour of 21 days of racing — is the biggest and most successful race calendar, with a total prize money purse that reflects its 100-year-plus history as the most prestigious race on the men’s WorldTour. In comparison, the prize pot for the Giro d’Italia is €1,500,000, while the prize money at the Vuelta a España is about €1,200,000.
If one divides the number of race days with the prize money, the Giro is more than double per stage and the Tour nearly three times per stage than the inaugural women’s Tour de France Femmes, with the Vuelta slightly less.
Of course, prize money is doled in an intricate formula based on a myriad of stage placings, overall prizes and special “primes” across the arc of a race, but it’s another way of measuring and comparing the numbers.
Things are at least better from the original women’s Tour back in the 1980s. The first winner in 1984 was Marianne Martin, who told NPR last week she won $1,000 compared to that year’s men’s winner Laurent Fignon, whose first-place check was worth $100,000.
When compared to prize money on the men’s WorldTour of similar eight-day stage races, the Tour de France Femmes comes out ahead.
The purse is larger than an equivalent eight-day race on the WorldTour calendar, such as Paris-Nice, which awards about €145,000 euros, or the Critérium du Dauphiné, with about €130,000.
In light of the prize money differences, several races across the calendar have already bumped the prize packet to match the men’s equivalent, including such races as the Santos Tour Down Under and events at Flanders Classics, among others.
Coming into its 2022 edition, the 10-stage Giro d’Italia Donne bumped its prize money to €250,000. That is five times the amount in 2021 race, and equaled the Tour de France Femmes. The winner there — also Van Vleuten — got €50,000.
The topic of prize money remains controversial
Women’s prize money and equity with men’s racing remains a controversial and sometimes divisive issue.
Some argue that women’s racing must slowly build up its audience and sponsor appeal over time, pointing out that it wasn’t until the 1980s that Greg LeMond became cycling’s first million-dollar-contract, while others call the pay pot discrepancy nothing short of scandalous.
Insiders say increased salaries and prize money pots will inevitably expand only after the sport is consistently broadcast on live TV. That’s what drives sponsorship deals in both the men’s and women’s peloton, and that’s why many hope the heft of race organizer ASO and the Tour de France branding could be a game-changer for women’s racing.
“It’s insulting that they’re promoting this as the biggest prize money ever and it’s only one tenth of the men’s prize purse.” Organisers criticised for their ‘record’ prize money offering in historic Tour de France Femmes, which begins in Paris tomorrow🚴♀️ https://t.co/MeNR4MvJwH
— Fiona Tomas (@fi_tomas_) July 23, 2022
When asked by VeloNews about the prize pot, many riders were hopeful the prize money will grow over time. Van Vleuten pointed out how a peloton-wide minimum wage would be an even more important step to help put more money into the pockets of racers in the women’s peloton.
“Having the Tour de France, you can feel more possibilities are happening, more money is coming into cycling, more live television, more commercial marketers are interested in us,” Van Vleuten said. “That is how you develop to the point where more and more women have a minimum salary to go full-time.”
As Van Vleuten suggested, it’s rider salaries that for many is an even more pressing issue.
There were probably a few riders in the Tour de France Femmes peloton who were not making much or perhaps nothing with their salaries.
The advocacy group Cyclists Alliance revealed in a 2021 rider survey that one-third of the respondents in the women’s peloton need to work on the side to support their racing, while more than 40 percent said they to pay for part of their travel or equipment costs. Riders on smaller, non-Women’s WorldTour teams are the hardest hit, with one-third replying they receive no salary at all.
Things are improving. There is already a women’s WorldTour minimum wage that the UCI vows to bring to parity to the men’s WorldTour minimum salary.
Julie de Wilde, a promising Belgian talent on Plantur-Pura, said she hopes to see the prize money grow in future editions.
“I think it’s just really nice from all the sponsors that they are showing themselves a bit more on television,” she said. “The prize money is for sure still not the same as the men’s. That’s a thing that they really can improve.”
Tour de France Femmes officials were mum when speaking directly about the prize money purse, only suggesting that changes will come as the race grows, establishes itself, and gains more traction with sponsors and backers.
Race director Marion Rousse told The Guardian that the inaugural edition of the Tour de France Femmes is an important step in building a stronger base across women’s cycling that will ultimately result in a larger pie for everyone.
“Although women’s cycling has evolved, the economic model remains fragile,” Rousse told The Guardian. “It’s still an amateur milieu, for sure, and one hopes that, thanks to the audience, to the fact that the race is on TV in 190 countries around the world, and because it’s the Tour de France, that the sponsors will be encouraged to invest in women’s teams.”