UCI accused of ‘discrimination against women’s cycling’ by Velon

The latest complaint revolves around plans for a fully equal women’s Hammer event

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The UCI has been accused of “discrimination against women’s cycling” by Hammer Series organiser Velon.

After initially making a complaint to the European Commission against cycling’s international governing body over anti-trust concerns, Velon has now spoken out about its blocked plans to hold a women’s Hammer event in Stavanger, Norway.

In June, Velon and the organiser of the Hammer Stavanger applied to the UCI for permission to hold a women’s Hammer race that would run alongside the Hammer Stavanger, complete with equal format, course, duration, broadcasting time ad prize money.

But in October, the UCI informed the Norwegian Cycling Federation (NCF) that the application had been refused, stating that the event “was not in the best interest of women’s cycling.”

Roy Hegreberg, event director for Tour des Fjords AS, which runs Hammer Stavanger, said: “We have had the ambition of organising a women’s race since we started in 2013. We believe international women’s cycling needs events that will give them stronger visibility to develop.

“This is what we offer with Hammer Stavanger: equality for women and men in terms of promotion, visibility, prize money and sporting aspects. We can’t see any reason why the UCI doesn’t want to approve this race.”

Last month Velon, the group founded in 2014 with the aim of revolutionising professional cycling through new use of data, race formats, and on-board video footage, filed an anti-trust complaint to the European Commission against the UCI.

The organisation, which works with 11 WorldTour teams including Deceuninck – Quick-Step, Team Ineos and Sunweb, said the governing body had implemented regulations designed to favour the UCI to the detriment of the sport.

On Friday (November 8), Velon added its concerns about the women’s Hammer Stavanger to the initial complaint, saying: “Refusing to allow a much-welcomed women’s Hammer event, which would increase the general public’s interest in women’s cycling and grow the sport in a country that has played a leading role in promoting it, is yet a another example of the UCI using its regulatory power to block the legitimate business activities of Velon, it’s partner races organisers and the teams – this time in a manner which discriminates against women.”

Velon and Tour des Fjords AS made their application to the UCI in June and announced plans in early October, as the Norwegian Cycling Federation confirmed that the UCI Road Department had included the women’s Hammer Stavanger in the draft 2020 Road Calendar, which was submitted to the UCI Management Committee for approval.

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But on October 18, the UCI told the federation that the race would not go ahead.

Velon said this decision followed on from the UCI also refusing to support Hammer Colombia, which would have offered another equal women’s race.

The addendum to the original complaint calls on the UCI to amend the 2020 calendar and allow the women’s race to be held on May 22-24 as part of Hammer Stavanger.

General Secretary of the Norwegian Cycling Federation, Eystein Stokstad: "NCF is a proud supporter of women’s cycling.  We value equality in sport, including support for elite-level events because we know that such events are crucial to the development of women’s cycling. It would be very disappointing if the Hammer Stavanger women’s race was not approved by the UCI. NCF supports the vision of Tour des Fjords AS.”

Cycling Weekly has approached the UCI for comment.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.