By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Days before the US cyclo-cross championships began in Kansas City, Kansas, word that an online petition regarding equality in race prize pay-outs between men and women was circulating. The author of the petition, mountain biker and cyclo-cross racer Georgia Gould (Luna Chix), was amazed by the quick response from the community saying it gave her the inspiration to follow-up with a more formal proposal to the UCI.
"I've been super impressed by the response not just from other woman racers but from men, from promoters some people didn't even know it is so unequal," she told Cyclingnews "I think there is some good momentum and I hope I can get something accomplished."
A frequent knee-jerk reaction to this idea is that men's racing brings in more spectators, and subsequently more sponsorship money, than women's racing. Gould does acknowledge this, but she is not asking for total equality down the prize lists. More specifically, Gould is asking for the top five spots in any UCI race to have equal prize minimums between the men and women.
"It isn't about taking anything away from the guys, it's about being equal at the very top," she said. "And these are just for the UCI minimums. If a promoter wants to pay one more than the other, above the minimum, then fine as long as the minimums are equal. It's really a no-brainer."
"People use circular reasoning to justify how it is. Like, 'Look at the women's field, it is not as big that is why the purse shouldn't be as big.' But like the battle between me and Katie [Compton], they have been working that just as much as the guy's race. Sure, pay the men out deeper, but the top five is just as competitive."
Gould cited numerous examples, including a recent one. "At the USGP races, the women got more from winning the SRAM most aggressive rider prize than the [US]$237 from winning the race, while the guys were getting like $600 for winning. The reason you have a UCI race is to attract top riders, but if you want us to come, you need to pay us equally."
When asked about potential backlash, such as a promoter deciding to simply cut the women's category from a race rather than increase the prize money, Gould said that it is a possibility, but hopes promoters will see the logic in her reasoning. "I think that would be really disappointing, because we aren't talking about thousands of dollars. At the end, this should make the promoters more accountable. Right now they can say the UCI's rules, so this is why I am trying to go to the UCI directly."
For now, Gould is going to collect her initial wave of support before heading to the top. However, some promoters are already voluntarily supporting her idea. "I am going to write a longer proposal and get letters of support. There are some promoters that are totally all about this. The NORBA series made the top five equal this year, and other promoters doing that is a huge step. It's really commendable for people to do it without having to."
"I've been thinking about it for a while, and it was just time to stop complaining and try to do something," said Gould. "If you try it and it doesn't work, at least you can say you did something."
More information about the petition can be found here.