Drenthe not only hosted the 2014 Women Road World Cup opener, it was the venue for the first meeting of the UCI Womenâ€™s Commission. The Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe provided the perfect launch for this new commission which was established by UCI President Brian Cookson.
The creation of the Womenâ€™s Commission was one of Mr Cooksonâ€™s election promises for the development of womenâ€™s cycling. Other associated initiatives that have already been achieved since his election to the head of the UCI last September include appointing at least one woman to every UCI Commission and the introduction of new broadcast initiatives for women riders. He also appointed Tracey Gaudry as UCI Vice-President, the first female in the history of the UCI to hold this position, and opened a full time staff position dedicated to the development of womenâ€™s cycling across all disciplines.
â€śI am delighted by the progress that has already been made for womenâ€™s cycling since my election,â€ť said Mr Cookson. â€śThe potential to grow womenâ€™s cycling is enormous and I am looking forward to the invaluable support of the new commission.â€ť
Representing six countries and three continents, commission members have been in frequent contact since the commission was established, and had plenty of ground to cover in the one-and-a-half days of meetings this month.
Tracey Gaudry heads the UCI Womenâ€™s Commission that is made up of eminent figures in the world of cycling who represent organisers, teams, riders, media and the industry:
â€˘ Karen Bliss, Marketing Vice-President of worldwide distributor Advanced Sports International
â€˘ Martin Barras, womenâ€™s cycling coach with the Australian Institute of Sport
â€˘ Mark Butterman, Summer Sports Director of Infront Sports & Media
â€˘ Katherine Compton, UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup Champion
â€˘ Thibaud Coudriou and Thierry Gouvenou, event managers at Amaury Sport Organization
â€˘ Emma Pooley, 2010 time trial World Champion
â€˘ Kristy Scrymgeour, Owner of Team Specialized-lululemon
The commission has the support of Andrea Marcellini, UCI Womenâ€™s Cycling Coordinator.
Tracey Gaudry, Kristy Scrymgeour and Karen Bliss are all former professional cyclists.
Only Emma Pooley, with a prior racing engagement, was unable to join her colleagues. However Cyclo-cross and Road World Champion Marianne Vos, who sits on the UCI Road Commission, took time out from her busy schedule to join in some of the discussions.
The members began drafting a strategy document in order to guide the development of womenâ€™s cycling into the future. Part of that strategy is to ensure a smoother transition from grass roots cycling to the Elite level. At their next meeting they will examine the opportunities for womenâ€™s cycling in greater depth and establish concrete goals to guide it into the future.
Tracey Gaudry points out, â€śWomen have always cycled so we are not starting from zero.â€ť
She added: â€śThere is a collective will and energy among our members. They represent stakeholders around the world, but as a team we can achieve so much more than as individuals.
â€śThe first project (the TV coverage) is already well under way. The UCI has demonstrated that it is here to deliver and unlock the potential of women in cycling.â€ť
For Karen Bliss, the Commission is imperative to the future success of womenâ€™s cycling: â€śThe sport has suffered for years as a result of low participant numbers, reduced event quality and weak sponsorship support,â€ť she says. â€śThe only way womenâ€™s cycling will survive is if itâ€™s made a priority.... but the commission has more than survival in mind. We see womenâ€™s cycling thriving and growing.â€ť