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Race organizer Flanders Classics will boost its prize money offerings for 2023, giving equal prize pots to all its men’s and women’s events for the first time.
It is part of a three-year project by the organizer, which puts some of the biggest spring classics, along with accountancy firm KPMG called Closing the Gap. The project was launched in 2020 to develop women’s cycling and put it on an equal footing with the men’s events.
The group had already increased the prize money for its flagship event, the Tour of Flanders, last season so that the women’s pot would be equal to the men’s. Now its other five classics, including this weekend’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will have equal prize funds.
“We had already announced that long-term strategy three years ago. In 2023 we wanted to equalize the prize money for all spring races and if you say so, you should do it,” Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel told Sporza.
“For us, it is the icing on the cake, part of a bigger picture. We have already been working on upgrading the starting fees, improving our competitions, and increasing media coverage and broadcasting hours.”
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Flanders Classics has been one of the leaders in race organization for women’s cycling in recent seasons. It has held a women’s Tour of Flanders since 2004, and its women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was introduced in 2006.
Other races were introduced later with Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem first holding women’s events in 2012. After launching its Closing the Gap program, it launched a women’s Scheldeprijs race, which was the last of its spring classics that didn’t have an equivalent women’s event.
It has one of the most comprehensive broadcast schedules on the Women’s WorldTour and it has recently swapped the schedule of some of its events, such as the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem, so that its women’s races finished after the men’s to give it a primetime slot.
“You can’t be left behind with the prize money and we want to show that this is the momentum. We want to lead by example,” Van Den Spiegel said. “Women’s cycling used to be described by organizers as a cost, today it is an investment.
“We want to be innovative and we want to remain first in our class. And so I think other organizers will be obliged to follow.”