Chantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx) and Joscelin Lowden (Uno X Pro Cycling) have announced their respective pregnancies in January and will take maternity leave from racing in 2023 but their teams won’t replace them despite new rules allowing it.
The UCI introduced a new maternity clause this year that would allow trade teams to hire replacement riders to cover riders’ spots on the team while on maternity leave. However, both teams have told cycling news that they have tentatively decided not to bring in new riders.
SD Worx and Uno-X will race with teams of 15 in 2023.
Lowden, a former World Hour Record holder, announced across social media that she and partner Dan Bigham are expecting a child in the summer of 2023. “We are getting ready for the ride of our lives,” Lowden wrote.
“We are thrilled to share the news of welcoming a BigLow to the world in July. We feel very excited and very happy, but it is also a bit exciting.”
Van den Broek-Blaak announced her pregnancy at the SD Worx team presentation held on January 17, where she joined her teammates on stage at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
“It’s strange [taking time away], but it’s for a good cause. The baby is due at the end of May, and I feel pretty good. As an athlete, I don’t feel great, but you can’t compare yourself as an athlete. For a normal woman, I feel good,” Van den Broek-Black said.
“I will try to stay involved. I was with the team in December in the US, and at the camp, and I was with them for a few days in Spain. I hope to stay involved as long as possible, but it will become harder. Once the baby arrives, I will stay out for a few months.”
The former World Champion looked set to retire from the sport in 2022, however, last year, she made the decision to reverse her impending retirement and instead renewed her contract through the end of 2024.
At that time, she said that she had held talks with her husband, family, and the team before deciding to continue, with a major factor in staying in the peloton was the freedom to try and have a child at the same time.
Van den Broek-Blaak stated that she will remain involved with the riders in a coaching and mentorship capacity during the first part of this season.
“I’m not racing this year, but I try to stay as involved as I can. Coaching is something I do already. I try to help the young riders a bit, sometimes, it’s nice for them to have extra contact, and I can share my experience,” she said.
“When you are riding a bike, it’s not always that easy to help others. Of course, you try, and it’s also in my character to help everyone. When you focus on yourself, you forget the rest around you. I have the time now, and I like to do this, so I will try to help as much as possible.”
After taking some time off after the birth of her child, Van den Broek-Blaak aims to rejoin the team next winter and tentatively plans to return to racing in 2024. “Of course, everything needs to go well, and I think it’s a realistic I hope to race well next year (2024), but the way back will be long,” she said.
The UCI introduced a maternity leave clause to its standard contracts for Women’s WorldTeams that began in 2020. Article 2.13.192 allows women contracted with top-tier teams to take three months’ leave while entitled to 100% of their salary, followed by an additional five months at 50% of their salary. The current minimum salary is €32,102 (employed) / €52,647 (self-employed).
In a set of sweeping rule changes to the 2023 Women’s WorldTour, the sport governing body announced that in case of maternity leave, Women’s WorldTeams could now have the flexibility to register a replacement rider at any time during that season – even outside of the registration period , according to article 2.13.199.
However, the incoming rider cannot already be registered with another Women’s WorldTeam or Continental team.
SD Worx told cycling news that they would not utilize the new clause to fill Van den Broek-Blaak’s spot on the team while she is on leave.
“No, we are not going to utilize this clause,” the team stated, while team manager Danny Stam said he was pleased that Van den Broek-Blaak would continue to work with the team in a coaching capacity. “We are going to miss her di lei in the peloton and the team, but it is always good that we can count on her di lei knowledge of her.”
General Manager and CEO of Uno-X Jens Haugland, said cycling news that Uno-X Pro Cycling would continue to pay 100% of Lowden’s salary in 2023 with a contract renewal offer in place for 2024.
“Currently, we do not plan to replace her – but things can always change. Jos will receive 100% of her contract payment this year, and her contract will automatically be lengthened with one year extra (if she continues to race),” Haugland he said.