Annemiek van Vleuten backs push for TV coverage over prize money, as Strade Bianche fundraiser reaches €18,000

The winner of the last two editions of Strade Bianche says she hopes the groundswell of support will lead to more top-level races opening up for women, such as Il Lombardia

The discrepancy in prize money between Omloop Het Nieuwsblad became one of the main talking points in the aftermath of Opening Weekend, with world champion Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx) picking up only €930 compared to Davide Ballerini’s (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) €16,000.

Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel has stuck to his guns throughout the backlash, saying funds were better directed towards broadcasting the women’s race live for the first time, which he argues will bring about more structural improvement to the women’s side of the sport.

Annemiek van Vleuten agrees, and she still stands to gain if she wins Strade Bianche for a third straight year on Saturday after a crowdfunding campaign has so far raised €18,000 for the women’s winner.

“I am very happy that fans apparently can’t believe we are getting unequal prize money,” Van Vleuten told Nrc.nl about one 41-year-old cycling fan’s Go Fund Me campaign ahead of the Italian one-day classic.

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“But the change has to be in a different order. Most importantly, women need to be seen on TV in races. For example, I would kill for a women’s edition of the Tour of Lombardy. But if it is made mandatory that they have to pay out [equal] prize money immediately and that the race can’t then happen because of that, we are doing the wrong thing.”

The 2019 world champion goes on to say how she hopes the support surrounding the women’s edition of Strade Bianche will be heard by race organisers RCS, who also put on Il Lombardia, and that they will get to work on an edition of the autumn classic she is permitted to race.

So far 750 people have donated to the crowdfunding campaign. Its creator, Dutchman Cem Tanyeri, says he has been annoyed about the inequality for years, and finally pulled the trigger to do something about it.

“There are so many people who express themselves indignantly, but do nothing about it. I thought: let me challenge them to put their money where their mouth is,” he said. “I donate 50 euros and I will see who follows. See how much momentum we can create.

“We are in a constant circle: we talk, but we don’t get any further. I want to set an example to others. If it is an action or an initiative with good intentions, it has a chance of success regardless of the topic. In 2021 we are still living in a society where female sporting and social performance is second level. And we get away with it too.”