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Lorena Wiebes completes hat-trick of sprint wins at RideLondon Classique
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Lorena Wiebes completes hat-trick of sprint wins at RideLondon Classique

The unerring Lorena Wiebes, of the all-conquering SD Worx Protime team, dominated the 2024 Ford RideLondon Classique, winning stage three on the Mall to complete a hat-trick of sprint successes and win the World Tour race overall for the second time in her career.

The Dutch sprinter, winner of stages one and two in Colchester and Maldon was again shepherded to the finish by her teammate, the World Road Race champion, Lotte Kopecky, to seal another peerless success.

Wiebes, winner of stages in the Tour de France Femmes in 2023 and 2022, will be one of the favourites for Olympic gold at Paris 2024, should the women’s road race be decided by a sprint.

While the 25-year-old has been the centre of attention in this three-day race, however, it is her teammate Demi Vollering, winner of the Tour de France Femmes last year and the 2024 Vuelta Femenina of Spain, whose leap in marketability has been pivotal in fuelling the fast-changing financial structures of women’s racing.

Vollering has become the most coveted star in the women’s peloton following her win in last year’s Tour de France, and a string of other successes, in races such as Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, over the past 18 months.

The peloton passing Buckingham PalaceView image in fullscreen

Her SD Worx Protime team have said that they do not have the budget to keep both her and Kopecky, who has also experienced a significant jump in valuation since winning the world title in Glasgow last autumn. “We want to keep Demi, but not for a blank cheque,” her current team manager, Danny Stam, said this spring.

In what was a groundbreaking deal for women’s cycling, the 27-year-old Dutch rider has recently signed a personal sponsorship agreement with Nike, and is now at the centre of speculation that she is about to move to a rival team, in a deal believed to be in the region of €1m.

Vollering’s quantum leap in value reflects the rapid growth of the women’s scene, fuelled by the rebirth of the women’s Tour de France in 2022. While the Dutch rider is about to become one of the biggest earners in women’s endurance sport, her increased marketability has been echoed throughout the women’s scene.

Fifteen World Tour teams are now understood to pay their riders an average of €85,000 a season, and for some, that reflects greater parity and the rapid growth of investment in the women’s scene.

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“If some teams are able to offer riders a million euros, it’s because they have the finances to do it – top riders getting paid that much will mean more for everyone,” the former French national champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot, a professional since 2008, said.

“The gap [between the top riders and others] still has to be closed, but I’m happy for Vollering: she’s bringing up the market,” Cordon-Ragot, of the Human Powered Health team, said. “I am definitely earning more than I was two or three years ago.”

“The main problem is having big differences in salary between riders. It’s a team sport and without teammates, the leaders would not win.”

In another indicator of the mushrooming growth of women’s racing, the Ford RideLondon Classique, promoted by London Marathon Events, is now hoping to increase to four days and ultimately, possibly five, in length.

“To have Kopecky leading out Wiebes, a past winner and obviously one of the best sprinters in the world – Kopecky herself was second at the 2023 Tour de France and is world champion,” the Ford Ride London race director, Scott Sunderland, said. “SD Worx Protime came here with a very strong team, and have prioritised this event.”

Source: theguardian.com