Pro women’s cycling is continuing to prove that mom watts are a real thing—and that’s good for all women’s sport, but especially for the pro peloton. More and more, riders are starting to see a pathway that allows them to continue in sport while also starting a family.

Most recently, Uno-X Pro Cycling Team’s Elinor Barker has been making headlines after a seventh place finish in Gent-Wevelgem this weekend in her first season back from maternity leave.

While SD Worx’ Marlen Reusser took the win at the 162.5-kilometer Gent-Wevelgem race with a dramatic solo attack, the chase was equally exciting. Barker was part of a chase group that almost made it to the finish before getting swallowed up by the peloton, but she was still able to hang on for the sprint finish.

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And for Barker in particular, that seventh place was a personal best in a WorldTour level road race. The track world champion and gold medalist has actually improved on the road, despite taking the 2021 season off to have her first child.

Now, she’s back in the women’s peloton and showing the world that women are able to start a family without giving up their pro cycling aspirations.

Since 2020, the maternity landscape is changing in pro cycling

Barker told CyclingNews in an interview that her team, Uno-X, has been instrumental in her ability to take a leave of absence to have her child, and then make the comeback. She says that the team not only honored her contract, they went beyond the UCI requirement.

The UCI requirement, if you were wondering, is slightly better than the average American workplace: Starting in 2020, riders became entitled to three months of maternity leave with full salary, plus an additional five months at 50 percent of their salary.

In 2022, the UCI also introduced a ruling that allowed teams to add new riders to the roster to cover those riders who were out on maternity leave, which opened the door for teams to be more positive on riders who opted to take maternity leave.

“This would look so different if they [Uno-X] weren’t as open minded, I think,” she told CyclingNews. “They do things a lot differently to how other teams and other employers do things. It also gives me a lot of motivation. So far it's working really well.”

Pro riders and supportive teams are leading the way

This comes after Ellen Van Dijk of Trek Segafredo also announced her pregnancy, citing her teammate Lizzie Deignan as a source of inspiration.

Van Dijk is not only taking a break to have her first child, she’s still planning to target the 2024 Olympics.

Deignan herself has taken two maternity leaves from cycling, most recently in 2022.

“To have the full support from Trek is something special and they really are the game changers in women’s cycling,” Van Dijk said when she announced her pregnancy earlier this year. “Having the option to get pregnant during your career should be a human right, but it wasn’t in our sport. However, thanks to Trek, other teams followed the example of supporting pregnancy and that eventually led to it also becoming a UCI rule.”

Let’s all pause for a slow clap for these long-overdue changes to pro women’s cycling!

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Molly Hurford

Molly writes about cycling, nutrition and training, with an emphasis on women in sport. Her new middle-grade series, Shred Girls, debuts with Rodale Kids/Random House in 2019 with "Lindsay's Joyride." Her other books include "Mud, Snow and Cyclocross," "Saddle, Sore" and "Fuel Your Ride." Her work has been published in magazines like Bicycling, Outside and Nylon. She co-hosts The Consummate Athlete Podcast.