Women’s Cycling: doing it for the love, and one dick too many

When Australia’s Tiffany Cromwell won the 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad classic she had every right to be delighted – and one reason not to be. She’d just cemented her name on the European scene with what was arguably the biggest win to date in her career, trouncing Megan Gruanier of Rabobank in the sprint to seal a brilliant victory.

The win brought her the spotlight her talent deserved and gained her a reputation for being a no nonsense rider who could mix it with the best in the sport. Surely, a win like that will have brought in a nice little pot in prize money? Well, not quite.

For her suffering on that cold morning at the tail end of February last year, Cromwell picked up an altogether underwhelming 270 euro. After splitting that amongst her teammates she might just have had enough for a glass of vino and a plate of pasta down her local trattoria.

Compare that to the 65,135 euro prize money taken home by Luca Paolini of Katusha, the winner of the men’s edition, and you can see that there is something of a disparity between the money on offer between the men and the women in professional cycling.

It’s not just in the classics that the yawning chasm between prizes exists. In the men’s Giro d’Italia last year, Vincenzo Nibali pocketed over 90,000 euro. By comparison, America’s Mara Abbott claimed a miserly 450 for winning the Giro d’Italia Femminile.

The minimum salary for a ProTour rider is 35,000 euro. A decent domestique will take home something between 50,000 to 100,000 euro per year, once win bonuses and prize money are take into account. A top domestique, for example a lead out man or a climbing specialist, will be making somewhere between 100,000 to 200,000 euro, and the top stars are looking at anything from a million up.

Amongst the women only a handful make over 100,000, with most being very fortunate to be pulling in 20,000, even with prize money thrown in. There is no minimum wage in place, meaning that the riders have to take what they can get. To be sure, if a woman wants to get rich, a career in professional cycling is not the way to go about it.

Speaking to BBC Sport last month, former world time trial champion Emma Pooley spoke out about the dismal prize money on offer in women’s cycling.

“I don’t do it for the prize money. I love sport,” she said, speaking about why she races bikes. “And if you’d like to print this I’d be very grateful, because I keep getting accused of being a whinger. I’m not trying to be whingy. I love sport and I know it’s a privilege to do it, and that’s why I do it – I’ve got the opportunity and I’m very grateful for it.

“But, occasionally, it seems strange when the prize money for coming third at a triathlon in the Philippines is more than the prize money I’ve ever won in a bike race. That’s nuts to me.”

Sarah Connolly, the woman behind the much respected and very sweary podcast, ‘The Unofficial Unsanctioned Women’s UCI Cycling Show’, was even more blunt when I questioned her on this subject.

“The women’s salaries are awful, in respect of them having no minimum salaries. A lot of these women could be making much more money – and having a much more comfortable life – out of the sport. They’re not there because they are being paid mega-bucks and have never done anything else, like some of the guys.

“A lot of them are studying university courses, or things like physiotherapy part-time while they ride, because they’re not going to be saving anything, and there aren’t the cushy jobs in teams [once they retire] that the men have. So, this means they are there through choice, because they love it – and that makes things interesting.”

Some will argue that the women simply do not deserve the kind of prize money and salaries that the men receive as they don’t attract the same sponsorship nor pull in the same revenue from television rights, which may be true. However, the fact is that women’s cycling was so woefully neglected by the UCI during the dark years of the Hein Verbruggen/Pat McQuaid presidencies that it is no surprise that it languished for so long in the doldrums.

Women, lest we forget, make up something like 50% of the population of the planet. Surely any half-intelligent man can see that that means a massive untapped market in terms of potential bike sales and UCI membership fees? Furthermore, the popularity of women’s golf, tennis and football proves that, when managed well and governed sensibly, women’s sport can be an extremely viable venture.

At the 2012 Jayco Bay Classic McQuaid nailed his colors to the mast when he used the platform to say the he did not believe women deserved a minimum wage because they “hadn’t progressed enough.”

Chloe Hosking, winner of the event that year, made her feelings plain when asked about McQuaid post-race.

“What can you say, Pat McQuaid is a dick,” she said.

Sarah Connolly was equally forthcoming when I asked her is the UCI had done enough in the past to help develop women’s cycling.

“Definitely not! We have a joke about how the UCI saw women in cycling – as podium girls, and to give birth to the adorable kids for race winners to cuddle on the podium,” she said.

“Some of the things Pat McQuaid was saying about women’s cycling after the 2011 Worlds were outrageous – that women didn’t deserve a minimum wage because the sport wasn’t developed enough – especially as he missed the irony that it was his job to do the developing.”

And what of the bike brands and the manufacturers? Are they doing enough to promote women’s cycling and to get more women involved in the sport at a grassroots level?

“Some of them are accurately discouraging us,” says Connolly. “When brands like Assos sell their jerseys with posters of models on their knees in high heels… Well, adverts like that are definitely not aimed at women.

“It can be hard to know where to start – and it’s a weird thing how the bike brands never look to actual fashion trends, but tend to default to pink. But you compare how for example Specialized and Liv/Giant talk to women, with the bikes, sponsoring teams in Europe, Australia, the USA, across MTB etc etc, and campaigns like the awesome ‘I am Specialized’, or Marianne Vos’ road-trip to Barcelona with a bunch of fans, and how that impacts on people buying things, and you wonder why others are willfully neglecting 50% of the market.”

So is it all doom and gloom, or are there any signs that the new leadership at the UCI, with the new president Brian Cookson at the helm, are making good on their promise to revitalize women’s cycling?

One of Cookson’s first moves was to promote Tracey Gaudry to become the first ever female vice-president, a move that won immediate applause from many. But are we seeing any effects from these changes?

Tiffany Cromwell believes so.

“I think Brian Cookson made the right noises saying we will do things for women’s cycling but it’s nice that we are seeing noticeable changes, it’s the first time in my career, and there seems to be more emphasis on the women’s side,” she says. “It’s great that the UCI is doing the highlights package for the women’s world cup, getting the race highlights straight up on YouTube, and selling the extended highlights around the world too.

“I feel like a lot more is happening and they’re getting more people involved. Marianne Vos is doing a lot with the UCI now and I think they’re interacting more with the top women athletes now to see what and how they can improve things.

“It’s only positives that are coming out now which I think is fantastic.”

Tiffany Cromwell of Specialized-LuluLemon

Tiffany Cromwell of Specialized-lululemon (image by Emily Maye)

One major development is that the women’s cycling has secured its first major sponsor in The Sufferfest, the producer of indoor training videos.

Founder David McQuillen is fully committed to aiding ansd supporting the growth of the women’s side of the sport.

“Our short history shows the commitment we have to women’s cycling and this new partnership with the UCI is a natural progression for us,” David told CyclingNews in April of this year. “Three years ago we created a cycling training video featuring women’s professional racing and since then we’ve continued to build on our content featuring the best female cyclists in the world,” McQuillen said.

“We have also sponsored several women’s teams and we were the first corporate backer of Half the Road, a new documentary on Women’s Pro Cycling. We are now looking forward to our investment supporting the UCI Women World Cup and continuing to assist with the growth of women’s cycling.”

Two other very positive developments come in the form of the women’s Tour of Britain and in the creation of a single day race that will be known as La Course, an event for women pros that will be held on the same parcours as the men’s on the last day at the 2014 Tour de France.

The Tour of Britain for the women will be ranked at the highest level and the prize money will be on a par with the men’s race. La Course will see the women’s peloton flying down the Champs Elysees in front of tens of thousands of spectators, and there too the winner will receive the same prize money as the men, 22,500 euro.

“That’s more prize money than the great majority of the women’s salaries,” notes Cromwell.

In a very real sense these developments are revolutionary, as they prove that parity is possible and viable. Women’s cycling at the Olympics the past two times around drew huge crowds, and there is truth to the observation that the women’s races are often more exciting than the men’s, as the shorter parcours allows for more attacking.

One of the very real positives to have emerged from the female peloton in the past year or two is the emergence of a united group of leading riders who are voicing their irritation at the neglect they’ve suffered in the past.

“I think they [the UCI leadership] were genuinely surprised about comments from riders like Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley, Giorgia Bronzini and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg – and it’s down to these amazing riders who refuse to shut up that we have change now,” said Connolly.

“As for now – the signs are good, and involving women [in dicsuiions] like Vos and Pooley, and Specialiazed-lululemon’s boss Kristy Scrymgeour is a great move – because they aren’t going to be fobbed off with half measures.”

Tellingly however, if we compare cycling to tennis we can see that things have taken a long time to get around to where we are now. It was 40 years ago that Billie Jean King sat down one night and drew up plans for a Women’s Tennis Association to push for equal prize money in the sport.

For women’s cycling in the USA, it finally happened – in 2013.

“We’re always asking, ‘Why are we not treated with the same respect as the men’s peloton? Why are we paid only a quarter of the prize purse?’” said the Women’s Cycling Association founder Robin Farina. “Who’s going to take the blame on these items? The UCI? USA Cycling? The races? No one’s really going to take charge of this unless we do it ourselves.”

Finally this seems to be happening not just in America but also in Europe. For far too long the UCI has neglected women’s cycling, and it is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue any longer.

From the prevalence of podium girls to pathetic prizes and a non-existent minimum wage, the authorities have done all they can to actively discourage women from taking up bike racing, with several brands continuing to exploit outmoded and sexist advertising practices to sell more products to men.

Journalists, magazines and websites have similarly neglected women’s racing, merely paying lip-service, if not completely ignoring the women’s side of the sport altogether.

A change has to come, it must, and so far the signs are good, much better than before. Quiet optimism may be justified, but there is still a long way to go yet.

 

this article originally appeared in RIDE Magazine in Australia.

 

69 comments

  1. John Toor

    Well researched, insightful, intelligent. Good article, Lee. Where do you find the time to write so much good stuff?

    • crankpunk

      hey John, great to hear from you! thanks for the compliment, very much appreciated. An hour of research and an hour to write usually does it, but if you’ve noticed the scarcity of articles of late, you’ll see that it’s a bit hit and miss in getting these done on a regular basis. anyway, cheers and crank on, as I’m sure you are ;-)

      • Rob

        I really love the article and the topic… but someone should really spend a few minutes proofreading this. It is full of grammatical and spelling errors. As both a professional mechanic for women’s teams and a college-graduate, this lack of attention to detail is disrespectful to the topic. When I write something, I take the time to just read it out loud. That way all the grammatical and spelling errors surface immediately and can be fixed. For an article of this length it should take less than 10 minutes.

      • crankpunk

        yawn dude. seriously, the style is mine and it runs throughout my writing, i don;t believe there is ever a ‘right’ way to write (and if there was then some of the most innovative writers of the 20thC would have had their work trashed by mealy-mouthed editors wearing sensible cardigans), and as for grammatical errors maybe i should have the same thing another guy has on his cycling site, where he says basically ‘look i work full time, i train, i’m not getting paid for this and i don’t have an editor.. and i don’t really care if you’re bothered.’ if it does bother you that much and if you’re really offended enough to say it is ‘disrespectful to the topic’ (that is amusing), then feel free to offer to be my editor.

      • Lance

        I am so glad I stumbled across this page! When I reached the ‘but proofreading’ quip, WHAT A DINK HAHAHAHA! The ; in don;t (within your reply) was especially entertaining. Perfect.
        I think that it is disrespectful to act like you cannot comprehend what is being communicated due to a spellin errer, when we all know that you really can. One dick too many, Indeed. Oh, and good read.

  2. Peter Easton

    some journalists ignore the women’s side, others, like myself, have been writing about it for years and thankfully ROAD has done a great job in giving me leeway to write about it and fully support it;-) great stuff Lee.

  3. Nathan

    Just like every heart bleeding article on this topic you use emotion rather than facts to justify the position. On average, the money available to pay out to women’s cycling is less because TV rights and sponsors don’t see the same return. Whether that’s right or not is a different argument. The reality is, the same number of people wanting to watch men’s cycling don’t want to watch women’s cycling. I for one am not interested in watching women’s cycling as it’s not as exciting. I think – I can do that. The Men’s equivalent is different. Tennis and golf are different because the pro women would kick my arse. That’s the reality.

    So the real question is what comes first, ie chicken or egg. The product or the money? We all know the answer. So stop publishing the BS.

    • Scott

      Hi Nathan,

      You’ve stated that facts should be utilised to justify a position rather than emotion. And quite right too. With reference to: “The reality is, the same number of people wanting to watch men’s cycling don’t want to watch women’s cycling,” can you point me to the empirical data to support that fact? I’d really like to read it.

      Oh, by the way, are you on Strava? You must be putting out some kick-ass numbers!

      Cheers,

      S.

    • Emma

      Nathan.
      I kick most of the guys in my cycling club’s arses. I’d probably kick yours as well :-)
      I’d say it would be quite exciting to watch too.

    • thedood

      Guess what “Nathan”….you’re a dick just like McQuaid!! What’s the matter…butthurt because all the women can kick your ass on club rides? With all the almost constant reporting of doping in the male peloton (even way before the Armstrong fiasco), I would MUCH rather watch and support women’s racing!

  4. Chris from Trek UK

    Hi Nathan,

    Emotion aside, this article is actually very factual.

    I think what you mean is exposure, rather than TV revenue, in your suggestion about the potential return for sponsors. There is no revenue sharing in professional cycling from television broadcasts. This is a topic about which Jonathan Vaughters is very vocal. There’s also no revenue sharing from profits made by race organizers in pro cycling. It’s these two areas that could offer the most cash to professional cycling as a whole, and in its current form, the sport operates very differently to pretty much any other professional sport.

    Also curious about whether or not you suggesting that a professional cyclist who is a woman wouldn’t be able to beat you on a bike? Female pros train every bit as hard as men do, so it’s incredibly gender-biased for you to suggest that you would be able to compete at the same level as an average pro. You couldn’t. If you trained as hard as a male pro, then yes, the physical differences inherent in being a man mean that you would develop into something faster and stronger, but you would need to be a pro in order to achieve the same level of physical fitness as female pros, in any sport.

    Perhaps you aren’t aware that Marianne Vos was at one point lobbying to race in men’s pro races. And your assumptions about women’s racing being less exciting is a bit erroneous, when you consider that the majority opinion is that a race such as the women’s Olympic road race in 2012 was a far more exciting event to watch than the men’s equivalent.

    The other assumption you make is that because you personally aren’t interested in watching women’s racing, than no man is. the size of the crowd at the Women’s Tour of Britain is proof positive that women’s cycling appeals to a wide cross section of people, many of whom are men. It was hardly an audience that weighed heavily in favor of women. Hardly. If we apply your logic in a slightly different way, it assumes that women, half the population, aren’t interested in watching men’s pro sports, and we all know that is hardly the case.

    • Jill, Head Geargal

      Hi Chris,

      Great replies and thanks for that.

      But it’s just incorrect to say that any man who “trains like a pro” would be stronger and faster than any given woman. Nope. I know men like to believe that, but until every male beats every female in sport, it’s just going to remain not true.

      I do find it ever so amusing how many men just assume they can beat a pro woman or even every amateur woman. I just wonder why they are so invested in that idea and how it’s not patently obvious that they can’t, hence the constant angst over “getting chicked.”

      • Chris from Trek UK

        True, and I wasn’t intending to make a blanket statement that every man at the peak of physical performance is automatically faster/stronger than the equivalent women. I could have worded it better. In essence I was stating that nature gives men a built-in advantage from the gun, but not one that is the be all and end all.

      • Craig MacIntyre

        It is a matter of degrees. In most measurable sporting metrics, the very best men are about 10% “better” than the very best women. The curve gets squishy from there… so given that fact, if Nathan cannot be beaten by the very best women, that puts him in a group of very very elite men – at least Euro domestic level. I cannot wait to see him on TV … that would be cool … err, he is a pro right? Not just some dumbass spewing nonsense???? Did I get that right?

  5. David McQuillen

    As ever, the most honest and straight-forward writing is here at Crankpunk. Thanks so much for this article. It’s so important that companies get behind this incredibly exciting sport. At The Sufferfest, even though we’re small, we’re determined not to just talk, but to act. So that’s why we sponsored the women’s world cup, and why a substantial portion of EVERY sale of our Hell Hath No Fury video (featuring ALL women’s pro cycling) goes directly to the UCI’s women’s programme’s budget. We also sponsor the Bike Pure UK Women’s Development team. And, to Nathan above, we are absolutely sure that you can’t do what they do. Ever.

      • Chris from Trek UK

        Happy to do so! I’m sure I had some typos in my reply, for like, solidarity and all. ;)

        Thanks for writing this piece, Lee. It needs to be said, over and over, until we see more parity in the sport.

        Also worth pointing out that while prize money isn’t equal, in most cases race entry fee costs the same for men and women.

        It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There is progress being made in some areas, such as Koppenbergcross, World Championships, the Cape Epic, and loads of domestic races in various countries.

  6. David Ashi

    Well I must be doing something wrog then because most of the expert women that we race with all kick my ass!!!

  7. Trevor Hall

    I’ve been watching the Red Bull TV coverage of the UCI MTB World Cup, and I honestly find the women’s races to be every bit as exciting as the men’s. The women may lack a bit of raw power compared to the men, but they are equal with respect to technical skill. I marvel at the downhill racers, male or female, riding terrain at speeds I could never hope to achieve. At the end of the day, we’re being astonished by an incredibly talented human being performing at the peak of their abilities.

    • Jill, Head Geargal

      Well yeah, because there is virtually no difference between the racers while you are actually just watching the race. If you didn’t know they were women, it would be hard to tell. I don’t even buy the “less raw power” thing. There are hardly any dudes in the world who could compete with those women but they have so much trouble admitting it.

  8. sandra

    The simple truth is that no one is “owed” the opportunity to pursue a professional career in sport. It’s all driven by interest in the competitive activity. It’s entertainment. And you simply can’t whine or legislate interest into existence, regardless of how popular or socially accepted this path has become.

    Over time cycling has become a profession for a very small group of men at the top end of the sport worldwide because there is enough interest in their competition. And that draws sponsorship dollars (either directly or in the form of media dollars), which is what makes the sport work. That model has not yet born much fruit for women, and consequently there are very, very few women that could be earnestly considered full time professional cyclists (regardless of how many claim the role). There are also several levels of competitive cycling below the top level for men and women. They don’t make much either, and in truth “semi-professional” would be a more accurate description for both groups. Again, there simply is not (yet) enough interest generated in the competition.

    So what to do about it?

    This is where my opinion differs strongly from the Women’s Cycling Association and many others whose sole effort seems to be directed at shaming others into creating the infrastructure to instantly produce a professional sport for women by demanding funds from others. Simply stated, if we want a league of our own we need to DO THE WORK.

    There are many, many producers of products and services (worldwide) that market predominantly to women. And there are event producers willing to create racing opportunities exclusively for women if funds are available for sponsorship. Rather than spending our efforts attempting to shame others into increasing our opportunities for us by reducing opportunities (and revenue) for others why don’t we concentrate our efforts on building a viable marketing avenue and infrastructure for professional women’s cycling by doing the work? Finding sponsorship revenue specifically for our sport? Producing events specifically for women? And in doing so we will build interest in our competition at the same time.

    I know it often feels good to stomp our feet and cry discrimination. It’s easier to blame someone else. But again, no one is owed this opportunity. Let’s concentrate on creation rather than blame.

    • crankpunk

      thank you for comments Sandra, i agree with many of your points. however any article on the state of women’s cycling that doesn’t explain the extent of the UCI’s neglect of this side of our sport would not be complete, in my opinion. i’m not here to tell women pros what to do, but to attempt to enlighten those who might not fully comprehend how and why this situation developed.

      cycling might consider a system where some cash from TV rights from the big races gets funneled into development programmes, one of which could be developing women’s cycling so that more women are involved around the world and there are more racing. impossible also to deny the fact that the majority of the cycling media is male dominated and that there is a bias against women’s cycling. either way, everyone has to sharpen up and turn this around. the ‘new UCI’ is making some very positive moves and some sponsors too. we need to pull together and stop thinking about this in terms of them and us. it is, at the end of the day, about getting people on bikes and bringing about a situation where people at the very least have an understanding of what is going on before they make subjective knee-jerk reactions.

      • Tywin Lannister

        Sure, we’ll just take some of the magic TV money and give it to women; there is a ton of it lying around, whoever’s making it now is sure not to miss it.

        There is only one professional sport I’m aware of with viable men’s and women’s leagues (basketball) and the women are supported by the men’s TV revenue. And the men make 200X to 300X more than the women, just about the same difference as the Nibali v. Abbott differential you cite in your piece. The basic salary differential in cycling is even less than it is in basketball. If there are female pro football, baseball or hockey leagues I’m unaware of them, but I’m sure the salary differentials are even higher if they do exist.

        Not saying it’s good, or fair, or anything other than to note that there is no evidence the salary and prize differentials will change materially in the short term or medium term. You are right in the areas of your piece and comments where you place the emphasis on growing the sport — that’s what needs to happen for salaries and prizes to get better.

      • Craig MacIntyre

        Tywin … remember you died … I think you need to do a bit more research … the following sports have both men and women professionals and their pay is a bit more equitable:
        Running
        Track and Field
        Tennis (women actually make more than men in many cases)
        Volleyball
        Triathlon
        Golf

        So while the table is clearly weighted towards the men there are clear examples of viability of sport for both.

    • Jill, Head Geargal

      I’m really not sure how you could draw that conclusion after reading how simply impossible it is to develop a women’s cycling program given that women aren’t paid the same as the men for doing the same job. It’s the old story of withholding cash to oppress the female population so that the boys can get the jobs they want without having to share.

  9. Jill, Head Geargal

    This is one of the greatest things I’ve read this year, especially paired with the response to the proofreading pedant. Rock on, sister!

    I guess the only thing I’d add is that I was angered when I saw how Specialized was giving a lot of lip service to women’s marketing while trotting out the same tired “women in sexy clothing” male-targeted ads out the other side of their faces. So, Specialized can shove it until they acknowledge and apologize. Their aggressive marketing to women, while welcome to some extent, was not indicative of a sea change in how the company approached the sport of cycling. I’d rather them ignore women than pretend they are progressive while publishing a “naughty nurse” ad to titillate the boys.

    • Lance

      Marketing folks do what they think ‘works’, and for men, that appears to be naughty nurses. I would personally like to see that sort of ‘promotion’ come to a screeching halt in ALL markets, for any product or service. I am not stupid and will gauge a product by its attributes, not by what is pictured with it. BTW, I just visited their website looking for such ads and could not find any. I then searched google images for Specialized Ads and scrolled down about 10x and did not see any. I’m not denying it, just wondering where these ads show up. Are they different in cycling mags than they are on the internet?

  10. Pingback: Other Voices | Geargals
  11. sandra

    Thanks for your response. I agree that “we need to pull together and stop thinking about this in terms of them and us.” However “them and us” is the exact basis of almost every single article written on the subject, including this one. And if you doubt that this article incites divisiveness you need read no farther that the title for evidence.
    I admire the goals of this campaign. It’s the strategy that fails to impress.

    • Jill, Head Geargal

      I’d like to see you come up with another idea other than going along with what equates to “sure, we’ll hire female lawyers, but we can’t pay them more than 1/20th of what we pay male lawyers until we know for sure that there is enough demand to justify paying women the same as the men. In the meantime we’ll withhold the subsidized access to law books and education that we give the men, until the women perform as well as the men.” I mean, if you oppose that idea, are you “divisive?”

      • noahdeuce

        Also, it’s not like the UCI is responsible for promoting and growing women’s cycling or anything. I mean, “development” isn’t mentioned at all in the UCI’s rules of good governance (http://www.uci.ch/Modules/BUILTIN/getObject.asp?MenuId=MTY4MzM&ObjTypeCode=FILE&type=FILE&id=MzQxMDk&LangId=1).
        OH WAIT, the UCI IS responsible for that! Weird how they’ve been falling down on the job for so long. It’s almost as if there’s some sort of irrational prejudice at work when the men who have run the UCI for its entire existence (a) cancel popular women’s races, (b) refuse to set an equal minimum wage for women, (c) limit the length and number of women’s races, and (d) don’t provide coverage for women’s racing, among other inexplicable decisions that SOMEHOW mysteriously result in women’s cycling being less attractive to sponsors and less remunerative for the racers.

      • sandra

        Actually I think you are missing the point entirely, which is why the argument and strategy so commonly falls to ‘X has more than Y’ (pun intended) rather than ‘how can we improve the lot of all cyclists that aspire and have the talent to embark on a professional career’. It’s easy (and popular) to evoke the concept of gender discrimination in employment, but the problem here is that, except in very few special circumstances, CYCLING IS NOT A JOB!

        The definition of a “professional” is someone that regularly provides a product or service in exchange for something of value. By this definition cycling is not intrinsically a profession unless one is contracting freight services, teaching someone to ride a bike, or providing entertainment. This discussion is not centered on bike messengers or fitness coaches. It’s about athletes. And an athlete that aspires to become a professional is seeking a career in the entertainment business (whether they know it or not) – which is the one of the least discriminating industries in the world. The audience decides what they will support, and to what extent. In order for cycling to succeed as a professional endeavor we must, as an industry, work to provide opportunities for drama and entertainment in the sport. And that isn’t gender specific. Almost every article I have read on the subject concentrates on dividing the marketplace “more evenly”, rather than growing the marketplace so there is more opportunity for all. At the level we are discussing here cycling is a business. And in business you cannot capture more market share without harming the competition. But an expanded marketplace helps everyone.

        My point is simple: If you truly want to make cycling a viable profession for women, stop making men the competition and start working to expand the marketplace.

      • noahdeuce

        sandra, your argument depends on ignoring the facts. Men who are professional cyclists would be surprised to learn that they don’t have a job (and would likely appreciate not paying taxes, since under your theory they aren’t earning an income, but are instead glorified buskers or something).

        You’re also opposing an argument that no one is making: No one around here has said, “Let’s take stuff away from men’s cycling!” You’re assuming a zero-sum game, while the rest of us recognize that promoting women’s cycling also grows the sport for everyone.

        The facts, which you refuse to acknowledge, are simple and damning: The UCI sets a minimum wage for men; it refuses to do so for women. The UCI is responsible for promoting the sport for ALL cyclists; it refuses to provide even minimal livestream coverage of women’s events (which could be easily and cheaply done, by the way – if Brian Cookson is confused about it, maybe he could read about how Occupy NY did it for basically free). Women’s events are massive draws for sponsors and spectators-the recent Friends Life Women’s Tour of Britain was a smashing success, with sponsor interest increasing sharply as the event went on, due in large part to the gigantic crowds drawn to it. So it’s just flat out false to suggest that the interest and resources aren’t there for women’s cycling, and it’s completely illogical to suggest that promoting women’s cycling and paying women at the same level as men’s cycling will somehow detract from men’s cycling specifically or professional cycling generally.

      • noahdeuce

        Also, a comparison with mountain biking is instructive here. Somehow Red Bull finds it worth its time and money to underwrite comparable coverage of both men’s and women’s MTB. And people watch it! Your thought experiment, which is nothing more than fact-free assertions about how you think the world works, can’t account for this, just like it can’t explain why women’s professional cycling shouldn’t have comparable resources to men’s professional cycling.

    • Jill, Head Geargal

      Er, it’s a job for the people who get paid to do it. Whatever point you are trying to make about professional cycling not being a job is not making too much sense.

      “stop making men the competition” – you realize it is the UCI making the argument that the women’s circuit isn’t “competitive” with the men’s so they just can’t manage to promote it? The leadership of the UCI aren’t the “competition”, they are the active oppressors, here. They’re not helpless in the face of the market, they are creating the market and limiting it to men. “Expanding the marketplace” as a holistic solution sounds cute but the UCI is only interested in expanding the marketplace for men’s cycling, and since the UCI is the governing body, the connection should be obvious to you.

      • noahdeuce

        Exactly right. The UCI can’t set the rules and limits, and then pretend it has no power to do anything about the situation it’s created.

  12. Regis Chapman

    Best article I’ve read on Crankpunk so far. As ever, women are the slaves of the economy, and as ever, they have ALWAYS had to do it themselves, just like when men leave them hanging in EVERY OTHER ASPECT OF LIFE. Thank God for the strength of women. This article basically just states the VERY LEAST we can do for women in this sport, and anyone who posts against it is as big a dick as everyone thought Pat McQuaid was.

  13. Phil

    Great column. I send regular emails to cyclingnews lambasting them for their lame coverage of women’s races. The recent Emakumeen Euskal Bira coverage didn’t get posted until after the final stage. No daily results or updates. Updates usually require following the racers’ personal sites or feeds. Every time I attempt to explain (to cyclingnews) the effect that has on the sport, I get the usual political response. Weak sauce!

  14. Bionic No1

    Wonder if a team of top women were allowed to enter the Tour De France would create the required interest. One of two things would happen 1. Create great interest in women cyclists ( wipe out some embarrassed men teams) 2. Totally destroy women cycling if they didn’t do any good

    • Chris from Trek UK

      In what other sport have women had to compete directly with men in order to prove that their participation in same-gender competitions in that sport was viable and worthwhile?

    • Regis Chapman

      I have an idea. It’s a subversive sort of idea. Let’s ask all the men pro cyclists that pro women cyclists know, to respond to their initial questions after the end of the stage by saying “does anyone know what happened in the women’s race? Who won?” After hearing that a more than a few times, maybe people would start needing an answer to it.

  15. Javier

    From Spain,

    It´s seems me incredible, actually be comparing men-women races diferences.
    I´ve been viewing during last week Emakumeen saria & Emakumeen bira here in Spain, and the show have been incredible. I can´t understand how in 2014, the prices aren´t equals, because in my opinion the show during the Emakumeen have been more exciting than the last tour (men). since the first day Rabo Liv, Orica Ais, Hi-tec and Specialized Lululemon fighting for win. I´ll pay for watch this races on Tv, and maybe not for all men races. In spain we are having problems with cycling races not included in UCI tour. The most of them have disapeared, Asturias, Madrid, Circuito montañes (men tours) and GP.Valladolid (women). The TV rights are expensive, and there is no money. So i think, we have to fight to raise awareness the incredible diferences betwen men and women. Diferences that no exits on the road, or the show.
    So i´m happy to can read this kind of articles, i think the first step to change the situation, we know it and make as many people know about it to try to change among all.
    I´ll try it, thanks

  16. Glenn

    It is indeed wonderful that now something will be done. Thereto It is indeed time that the ladies are also appreciated. I plan to definitely go for this bet.

  17. BassFace

    Thanks, crank, for the excellent write-up! As the women riders have little (well, no, in most respects) choice but to work in the system (UCI) that is given them, that it is the responsibility of said organization to support them in every possible way that they support the men. That was no doubt neglected under the Armstrong-tainted “leadership” of Verbruggen & McQuaid, and, while prior to his election lat September as UCI President, Brian Cookson seemed little different in prior comments about women’s cycling as head of British Cycling (and that is a whole other Pandora’s Box all its own), that he, as UCI president, is nonetheless keeping an open mind on the subject and, through in no small part to the appointment of Tracy Gaudry, the future of the women’s peloton is looking better. Little by little… let’s hope this continues.

    • Nathan

      Quoting most of the above… “Blah, blah, blah, I want to root a female cyclist”…

      There is hardly any money in men’s cycling to fund the entire peleton, yet alone a whole women’s peloton as well. The imbeciles who ignore this are classic.

      …and to the retards comparing women’s DH to men’s. Red bull is not stupid. Men watch the chicks for obvious reasons and the the chicks in tenge top teams are there for very specific reasons. Have a look at regional DH in Europe and Enduro – there are faster girls out there who are not as good looking and don’t get the opportunities. Is it right? No. But that’s the reality. Either way, they are shithouse compared to the blokes. And I would beat then down the track.

      That’s why I don’t care. That’s why there is no money in it. CARE FATOR = 0. It’s all lip service.

      • noahdeuce

        Nathan, lol-ing at the idea of you beating anyone other than your fellow shut-ins down a hill. I’m surprised you’re not on TV since you’re so fast! Why, it makes me think you’re just a liar who’s so insecure in his manhood that he can’t handle women being better than him.

        I’m glad that losers like you continue to have less and less influence in the world.

      • Chris

        Nathan if you are in the UK, I’d be more than happy to arrange to have you line up against Tracy Moseley on any track, DH, cross country, cyclocross, road, enduro…you name the discipline.

        Also, since you are clearly good enough to beat all the pro women, then you must be making some sponsors pretty happy. I was wondering where I might have a look at your race results, because the fastest women DH pros are coming down the course in less time than many of the male pros, so if you are indeed faster then the women, you must be a pro yourself.

        Who do you race for? If you don’t have a contract for next year, we should talk. I’m always looking for new people to sponsor, particularly those who demonstrate elevated levels of class, intelligence, equity, and many of the other characteristics that you clearly have no grasp of whatsoever.

  18. Touriste-Routier

    While I won’t dispute that the UCI hasn’t done their job to properly promote women’s cycling, I tend to agree with Sandra’s comments. Further:

    1) Minimum salaries, as much as everyone would appreciate them, won’t do much at this point; it is premature. If the teams don’t have the funding, they don’t have the funding. You can’t legislate prosperity. Compare this to the men’s situation. How may World Tour Teams are there? How many Pro-Continental Teams are there? (both have minimum salary requirements). Now, how many Continental Teams are there? (no minimum salary). And note that we are losing teams in the top 2 tiers due to the inability to find sponsors. If a minimum salary is introduced for the women, we will probably only have a few true pro teams, and the rest would be as we currently see; similar to the Men’s Continental Teams. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be a tiered system like the men, where the true pro teams are guaranteed race entry, and the others rely on invites.

    2) TV Revenue Sharing is a unicorn. The majority of TV rights are owned by the race organizers, not the UCI. Only the largest events receive significant revenue from the TV rights; most organizers have to pay for TV and/or for air time.

    Even if it there was significant revenue, it is not necessarily the race organizers job to fund the foundation of the sport. They support the sport by organizing races (and providing a platform for publicity), paying prize money, paying for sanctioning fees, and officiating costs. They have all of the risk; they deserve to profit from their labors too. Ultimately the balance sheet is what keeps races alive, or kills them off. Further, once you spread any TV around, it isn’t that meaningful to anyone recipient. If you want them to contribute more, raise the sanctioning fees overall, but don’t place a specific tax on the parties who are providing the platform that enables the sport to exist. Not all events even offer women’s races, so don’t punish the ones who do…

    3) Developing women’s cycling is a process, not an event. It needs to be attacked from multiple fronts, but it needs strong leadership from the federations, not just the UCI, but from the National Governing bodies too. Some individual race organizers have stepped up, and offer equal prize money between the men and women (think Philly Cycling Classic & Gastown), but legislating this isn’t going to help at this point.

    4) A final point, which I have never seen anyone comment on is the disparity of race distances. It may or may not be relevant to the subject of money, depending on your perspective. We often see/hear cries for equal treatment for women in terms of salaries and prizes, but their race distances are typically much shorter. We don’t often hear cries that women’s races should be 160 – 200 km long. One could argue some people are making a demand for equal pay without the call for equal work. This is in contrast to most other occupations where it is equal pay for equal work. I am not advocating this argument, but am merely offering an alternative perspective on the subject.

    • Chris

      To your last point, there is a significantly large school of thought that argues that the distances of men’s races is too long, and only fosters the notion that in order to achieve success as a pro, taking PEDs is necessary.

      And there are also a large number of voices calling for women’s races to be longer. You should realize that the distances that pro women race are set by the organizer, not the riders themselves. Pro women are more than capable of riding longer distance races. Their hands are tied.

      If you aren’t hearing the calls to alter race distances for both genders, then you need to do some additional listening, because it’s happening with regularity.

    • noahdeuce

      Most if these issues could be addressed by the UCI.

      1. What’s the problem with a tiered system? Right now the top women get screwed coming and going because they don’t have a minimum salary at all, but also…
      2. UCI doesn’t require race organizers put on both a men’s and women’s race at the same time, with equal prize money. The marginal operations cost would be very small; prize money might go down slightly, but this seems like a reasonable price to pay to allow women to have equal compensation.
      3. The UCI isn’t leading here, and so the other federations know they won’t pay a price for mirroring the UCI’s systemic neglect of women’s cycling.
      4. Women’s races aren’t as long as men’s because the UCI rules are written that way! It’s maddening that anyone can suggest “the women don’t do as much” when the UCI forbids them from having longer races! And those rules are based on sexist BS (totally unsupported by science) that claims women have less endurance than men. The UCI won’t let women race longer!

      • sandra

        “UCI doesn’t require race organizers put on both a men’s and women’s race at the same time, with equal prize money.”

        Correct … that is the decision of the promoter, as it should be.

        “The marginal operations cost would be very small; prize money might go down slightly, but this seems like a reasonable price to pay to allow women to have equal compensation.”

        Sorry, that is sheer fantasy. Operational costs are staggering for road races. There is minimal economy of scale gains available when adding a second field, but the operational complications (and costs) multiply significantly.

  19. Kyosuke Takei

    Hi! Lee san!
    I am TK!

    Thank you for a very good article.
    Deeply, deeply, I believe.

    Anything I can do is likely.
    Eri san, a large multi-year contract was decided!

    Let’s talk in Taiwan KOM!

  20. Pingback: Podcast 2014 Episode 25 – Sarah Goes Meta! | Unofficial Unsanctioned Women's UCI Cycling Blog
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