Supporting women’s bike racing

June 17, 2016 § 18 Comments

The latest women’s racing brouhaha is a recycled version of a problem that has been around for as long as women have raced. The last time it raised its head in SoCal bike racing was 2012, when Chris Lotts temporarily abolished women’s racing categories at his CBR races after more than a decade of money-losing poor attendance.

I covered most of the bases back then and am too tired to go out and run around them again. If you want to see the back-and-forth, here’s the link.

At that time I suggested that there was plenty of money among women racers, bike clubs, bike shops, bike manufacturers, and myriad players in the bike industry to put up money for events. In the last four years I haven’t seen that happen. Instead, I’ve seen smaller races with less turnout and less money for men and for women.

In 2015, rather than wait for the landscape to change, I decided to “be the change I wanted to see.” So, since August of last year I’ve put up the following cash primes:

  1. $4,000 for two CBR races in 2015.
  2. $2,500 for one CBR race in 2016.
  3. $1,000 for one SamBarn road race in 2016.
  4. $2,000 for the Adrenaline Twilight Grand Prix in 2016.
  5. $2,000 for the Carlsbad Grand Prix in 2016.

I don’t know if this makes me the biggest cash sponsor of amateur bike racing in California, but I do know this: The promoter in every one of these races agreed to distribute the cash primes equally between women’s and men’s races. If the Men’s 1/2/3 race got six $50 cash primes, so did the women.

For the upcoming Adrenaline Twilight Grand Prix in San Diego on July 16, the cash primes are going to be distributed as follows:

  1. Women’s Pro/1/2: $50.00 x 6 cash primes
  2. Men’s Pro 1/2/3: $50.00 x 6 cash primes
  3. Men’s Cat 4: $50.00 x 6 cash primes
  4. Men’s Cat 3: $50.00 x 6 cash primes
  5. Women’s Cat 3/4: $50.00 x 6 cash primes
  6. Masters 35+: $50.00 x 5 cash primes
  7. Masters 45+: $50.00 x 5 cash primes

For the Carlsbad Grand Prix on July 17, the breakdown is:

  1. Women’s P/1/2: $50 x 10 cash primes
  2. Men’s P/1/2/3: $50 x 10 cash primes
  3. Men’s Cat 3: $50 x 5 cash primes
  4. Men’s Cat 4: $50 x 5 cash primes
  5. Women’s Cat 3/4: $50 x 5 cash primes
  6. Men’s 45+: $50 x 5 cash primes

In the overall scheme of things this isn’t a lot of money, and if everyone with a stake in the bike race game were to make a small contribution, cash payouts would be consistent across races, turnout would increase over time, races would be profitable because promoters wouldn’t have to sweat attendance, and women wouldn’t feel like they’re being punished for racing their bikes.

Is it going to take a few years? Sure. But if you’re looking for a great place to spread the word about your business, you love bike racing, and you believe in equality, it’s worth it.



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§ 18 Responses to Supporting women’s bike racing

  • says:

    Way to put your money where your blog is.

  • Joe C says:

    Nice! That would have bought you a lot of carbon, made of 100% carbon. A few years ago, Tulsa Tough had a web page where you could donate online to the women’s primes; maybe you need something like that.

  • Paul Sotherland says:

    Thanks (again) for making the road by walking

  • channel_zero says:

    Instead, I’ve seen smaller races with less turnout and less money for men and for women.

    That should tell you it’s not the cash, it’s the product. Fewer people want to go to the events because they mostly suck for participants.

    Unless you are that special person who likes to pay for the beatdown from the same 3-4 riders driving an hour one-way, participation numbers are down for a reason..

    At the same time, good on you for putting the money up. It’s a very rare person who takes action with real money.

    • TB says:

      The “product” road racing and USA Cycling is dead (just as the participants who continue to train on the road and end up being killed by cagers).

      Has anyone noticed the tremendous uptake of middle school and high school mountain bike racing? Organized by NICA.

      In SoCal you have nearly 100 girls turning out for 7th and 8th grade races – and even more for the high school aged races.

      Girls/women enjoy riding and racing just as much as men… But there’s no incentive for them to participate (incentive doesn’t mean $$$). Nobody at the Amateur level should ever be lining up because of the lure of winning a $50 prime.

      I applaud Seths contributions for equality… But is it the best investment for the sport and community? Does that Cat 4 rider return to the next race because he can win that prize? No… They return in order to earn race points to pursue the fantasy of upgrading to a Cat 3.

      Everyone from promoters to participants should be doing this for their own reward, not $$$. But USA cycling has taken the reward out of the sport.

      Good luck to a sport that doesn’t have a promising future (road racing in the US).

    • fsethd says:

      The cash may not be “the” problem, but perhaps it’s a big part of the solution.

  • Equality in cycling is a long road to ride. The fields are very small wherever you go. Even at the pro level the fields had been dominated by Marianne Vos, Jeannie Longo and a few others, while the rest of the field wasn’t in the same league. Hopefully this will change, and watching women’s bike racing on tv will be more enjoyable. I enjoy watching a good battle among women just as much, if not more than among men.

    Seth, you should hold your head high and know that you’ve done more than your fair share in advancing cycling in SoCal. A heartfelt thanks from myself and from the cycling community as a whole.

    • fsethd says:

      You’re welcome–but I get more from cycling and the community than I could possibly repay.

  • leo_d says:

    Elder Equality for Primes! seen co-pays lately?

  • We’ve been struggling with that for a very long time. I’ve seen promoters offer a ton of money for a Women’s race that still failed to attract a big enough field to be exciting from a spectator perspective. Aside from those on the well-supported Pro/1/2 women’s teams, it seems to me that many of the women are motivated by factors other than the prizelist, in particular, how many of the other women they know are going to the race. For the Tour de La this year we had all of 11 women. Looking back to 1980, the earliest year for which I could find actual results, we had 10. The largest we’ve had, which would have been around ’09, was around 25, but the average is more like 10-12. In recent years the prizelist for the Women has been around $1,000, 12-deep, plus a few primes, so almost everyone in the race wins back her entry fee. In an area like ours where field sizes are small anyway, it is really hard for a promoter to justify more than that, especially when it doesn’t seem to result in larger fields. We keep tryin’ though!

    • fsethd says:

      Inconsistency is a problem, too. Putting a big cash payout for one race won’t drum up a big women’s field because the pool of racers is small. But what about year in, year out, predictably solid prize lists, and especially prime lists? It’s worth trying. The sport is in steep decline.

  • George says:

    I follow women’s cycling closely, and it seems that on the world stage, it is getting bigger, better in every respect. As we speak, the Aviva Women’s WorldTour stage race has record crowds watching on the roads along the route. Why is it that in the USA on an amateur level, that is not the case?

    • fsethd says:

      At its most fundamental, it is a lack of respect for and encouragement of the athletes.

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