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Flanders Classics announced on Monday that the male and female winners of their key event the Tour of Flanders will receive equal prize money in 2022. This bump in winnings is one of the first steps for the race organizer’s “Close the Gap” initiative that will hopefully see all Flanders Classics events provide equal prize money in 2023.
“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 Belgian media outlet De Tijd. “From 2023, the intention is to equalize the prize money for all our spring competitions.”
At €50,000 the Tour of Flanders would be the highest prize purse for any women’s one-day event.
Flanders Classics, who organize a slew of Spring Classic events, received backlash in 2021 after it was revealed that Anna van der Breggen won only €930 compared to Davide Ballerini’s €16,000 at Omloop Het Nieuwblad. The frenzy even led to a crowd funding campaign by women’s cycling fans that raised over €15,000 for the eventual winner of Strade Bianche.
At the time Van Den Spiegel defended the small prize offerings for women stating that equal prize money would not make a difference in the sport and Flanders Classics was focused on TV coverage instead.
“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,” Van Den Spiegel said. “I think it needs a broader perspective, [prize money] is 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.”
Prior to the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2021 Flanders Classics had already outlined their “Close the Gap” initiative that focused on prize money, media exposure, and calendar. With the help of KPMG Belgium Flanders Classics said they hoped to raise all their events to WorldTour or Pro series status. Another step is for their men’s and women’s events to have the same finish line as well as joint podium ceremonies, to increase exposure.
The initial goal was for equal prize money to take effect in 2023, but according to the Belgian publication De Tijd Flanders Classics is starting off with the Tour of Flanders this season.
The first Flanders Classic event Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is set to take place on Febrary 26. The women’s race is 1.Pro, while the men’s is WorldTour, but due to it’s history and prestige the race holds a special place in the women’s calendar. It marks the start of the Spring Classics and will hopefully kick off an excellent year of bike racing.
The other events run by Flanders Classics are Gent-Wevelgem, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Scheldeprijs, and De Brabante Pijl.