Tour Down Under starts with equality call

Santos Tour Down Under female cyclists continue to face unequal treatment compared to the men’s teams, with former champion cyclist and TDU assistant race director Annette Edmondson acknowledging that they sometimes struggle to find funds for the women racers.

Jan 12, 2024, updated Jan 12, 2024
Former champion cyclist and current Santos Tour Down Under Assistant Race Director Annette Edmondson addressed the Women's Press Conference on Thursday.

Former champion cyclist and current Santos Tour Down Under Assistant Race Director Annette Edmondson addressed the Women's Press Conference on Thursday.

Despite the Tour Down Under boasting its achievement of pay parity between the men and women cyclists, InDaily found that while the men get to fly business class from all over the world, the women are flown out on economy.

Additionally, the men get to stay in the Hilton for longer than the women, who spend some of their time lodged at student colleges in North Adelaide.

InDaily has been told that one women’s team was able to fly business class and rest their legs before the race, after their men’s team gave up their seats for them.

The Tour Down Under introduced the Santos Women’s Cup in 2011, which was the first time that professional women cyclists took part in the event.

In 2015, the annual women’s race became part of the National Road Series and in 2023 it gained UCI WorldTour Status.

In January 2023, InDaily’s sister publication CityMag reported on a panel held at The Lab with four professional female cyclists who acknowledged that there is a long way to go before female athletes achieve equality with men,

At a press conference on Thursday, Edmondson said that the Tour Down Under had been contracted by the Union Cycliste Internationale since 2006 to fly the men on business class, but the same agreement was not in place for the women.

“Our women’s race has now merged with the men in recent years and we are trying to find funds to support our ladies,” she said.

“A few years ago, we asked what would make the biggest impact for our women’s peloton and it was said that broadcast would make the biggest change.”

The entire tour is now being shown on 7plus.

Edmondson said that last year the Tour Down Under managed to find funds to fly over six women’s teams, and this year they have flown out 10.

“We’ve been on an amazing journey here at Santos Tour Down Under for our women’s race, we became a world tour event last year and so this is the second year for us,” she said.

“We hope to be able to pay for all of our athletes and then also have parity between both races.

“It’s definitely something that we’re passionate about and we are pushing for it, but obviously things take time, and unfortunately, it’s just taking a little bit longer than we hoped, but we’ve proud of the progression that we’ve made.”

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Santos Tour Down Under race director Stuart O’Grady said organisers were constantly working on growing and developing the race across the board.

“We’ve got an absolutely fantastic line-up; we’ve got more support than we’ve ever had. It’s the highest quality field from the women’s we’ve ever had,” he said.

2023 Santos Tour Down Under Defending Champion Grace Brown said that she would love to see more stages on the tour for the women’s teams.

“It’s nice to have a few more days to work with and really develop the story of the racing. I think we can also increase the length of the stages as well,” she said.

The women race across three days and then must wait another three days until their final criterium next Thursday evening, while the men have six stages plus a criterium. The women’s stages are also around 40km shorter than the men’s.

The 93.9km Stage 1 of the women’s race started today at 11:10am at Hahndorf and will finish around 1:52pm at Campbelltown.

The race began with a minute’s silence for two-time Olympian cyclist Melissa Hoskins who tragically died after being struck by a car earlier this month outside her home.

Former teammate Amanda Spratt was brought to tears when announcing the move at Thursday’s press conference.

The three women’s stages will finish on Sunday, January 14 with a 93.4 kilometres race from Adelaide to Willunga Hill and then will resume on Thursday, January 18, with the Down Under Criterium at 7pm at Victoria Park.

The men’s race will begin on Tuesday, January 16 with a stage starting and ending in Tanunda and will conclude on Sunday, January 21 with a race from Unley to Mount Lofty.

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