By Kirsten Robbins in Visalia, California
Quad Knopf Sequoia Cycling Classic received high marks for their National Racing Calendar (NRC) competition that included lucrative and equally divided prize money for men and women's professional fields. The two-day event included a 30 kilometre time trial in Exeter followed by criteriums for both fields in Visalia.
The only other race in the US to offer equal prize money and racing distance for both fields is the Tour de Toona, a highly contested stage race held in Pennsylvania in July. The organisation of the Quad Knopf Sequoia Cycling Classic didn't think twice about their $10,000 a day purse for both fields. Race director, Sheri Clark said, "The women put on a great show for us this weekend," Clark said. "When it came time to work on prize lists, there was never even a discussion that there would be a difference in prize money. We firmly believe that women play a large role in professional bike racing and we wanted to award them accordingly."
In years past, the Sequoia Cycling Classic was the leading event on the North American race calendar until early season racing flourished with the additions of the Merced McLane Pacific Cycling Classic and Fresno's Central Valley Classic, and the race fell by the wayside. Now, with the race back on the NRC, and with $40,000 divided equally between the fields, the event attracted strong fields of 80 women and 95 men from the most prominent teams in North America.
Cheerwine's legendary sprinter Laura VanGilder was among those 80 women, and said. "There were only eight more starters in the men's field this year," VanGilder said. "Hopefully the race will continue to grow and they have great support in the community. All the girls were really applauding our equal prize list and I feel like I am a single spokesperson for my team, Cheerwine, and for the positive things that a lot of people were saying about this event."
VanGilder added, "I support organisations that support the prize list for women's racing. This race was NRC this year and with a significant amount of prize money and I applaud organisers that do that. Also equal distances between men and women because we are given the opportunity to show our strengths."
The organisation received an A+ report card after the committee held a post-race review. "We are beside ourselves at the positive feedback that has come from this event," Clark said. "There is no question that the event will duplicate itself next year. We are going to have the time trial and criterium stand-alone and allow people to participate."
Clark has committed to hosting the event next year and the plan on duplicating the success of this year's event. "We are not going to change a whole lot for next year as far as the distances and prize lists," Clark said. "We have not had our post event discussions yet but the event is only going to continue to build with the feed back and the responses we get. We are glad to know that the women and men appreciate our efforts to equally recognise both groups of rider.