It is a considerable step towards “levelling the playing field” in Victoria, Australia and beyond.
It has been officially announced that the 2020 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race series, will, for the first time in its’ history, offer equal prize money for both professional male and female riders.
The sport of cycling, which has been typically male dominated, is heading in the right direction, thanks to the tireless work of those behind the scenes.
And Tracey Gaudry would know. She has spearheaded the changes for women and this achievement is just one on the list of many for female sports people.
Gaudry, a Member of the UCI Management Committee and President of the UCI Women's Commission, who work for each race and racer, became the inaugural Chair, six years ago and laid out grand plans for women competing in the sport.
But her commitment to the sport, women and seeking equality started many years prior when Gaudry rode professionally herself.
“There was the UCI Women’s World Cup- a series of one-day races around the world, of which there were only two one day races in Australia,” she said.
“At that stage, as a professional athlete, the importance of competing against the world on your home soil, was something that Australia didn’t have an opportunity of. Before, you were travelling to predominantly Europe to compete on their home soil.”
But, her time on the bike, has inspired Gaudry to speak up and do the work for the new generation of female riders.
“It’s the Segway to where we are today.”
“When we consider the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, established five years ago, we looked at how we could raise the bar for women in cycling, women in all sport.”
“When the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race was introduced to the UCI as a concept, there would be a women’s race and a men’s race. That was an important principle that the Victorian Government and Cadel Evans upheld.”
The Men’s Race, which achieved World Tour Status three years ago, lead the way for the women’s competition to eventually follow.
“At that time, the women’s series was only in establishment. But now and for 2020, we have established new criteria for Women’s Races wanting to be granted Women’s World Tour Status.”
From here the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race stepped forward, as one of the first competitions to vouch for equality between the male and female rides.
“They determined that they wanted the men’s and women’s races on equal footing and for both races to be at World Tour Status.”
“They would have to provide the minimum prize money and live broadcast for the women’s race, which was already a requirement for the men’s race,” Gaudry said.
From this, the Cadel Evans team came forward to the UCI, with a plan to give women the fair chance to be celebrated and respected like the men they would compete with.
“So, it shows, that the Cadel Evans Road race, for women, meets all criteria for World’s Women Tour Status. It will be the only Women’s World Tour Event in the Southern Hemisphere.”
But the success doesn’t stop there, with the Cadel Evans Race owners promising an even greater feat.
“Further to that, the race owners will pay equal prize money to both the men and women’s race,” Gaudry said.
Most importantly, Gaudry knows through her role as the Inaugural Cahir, six years prior, that their aims are being achieved on home soil.
“The role of that commission [six years ago] was to ensure that on and off the bike, in sport, in administration and in governance, we were levelling the playing field.”
“We were finding a way for equal rights and opportunities for women so that sport would become truly gender inclusive.”
And she is proud to say that a race on Australian turf is one of the leaders for women.
“The great example is the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, has embraced Gender Equality as a regulation for all events.”
For other sporting codes, Gaudry simply believes that it is possible to put these equality regulations in place.
“It can be done and it’s a no-brainer that women’s sport is highly attractive in terms of competitiveness, the profile and the personalities of the athletes.”
“Sport for women can be commercially viable and successful when promoted like we do men’s sport. That’s why successful events like the Cadel Evans Road Race have both men’s and women’s events inside the same footprint.”
However, Gaudry attests that this success didn’t simply occur overnight.
“You don’t just click your fingers and it happens,” she said.
But, for six years of grinding work to reach equality, for all women’s cyclists, including the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, is no small achievement on the road to Women’s Equality in sports around the world.
“The sport of cycling is a sport for everyone.”