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Atlanta's Grant Park Criterium offering women $20,000 prize purse

The start line of the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships 2021 women's criterium
The start line of the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships 2021 women's criterium (Image credit: Patrick Daly)

Men have traditionally been offered larger prize purses and an end of racing schedule prime time slot but that trend has begun to shift in recent years. The organisers of the Grant Park Criterium have gone one step further from parity, offering women four times as much as men and giving them the marquee time slot for the Atlanta race's 16th edition on August 22.

The Grant Park Criterium follows one day after the nearby Athens Twilight Criterium and has attracted an elite start list, with L39ION's Kendall Ryan and Skylar Schneider, multi-time national champion Tina Pic and her Colavita/HelloFresh Women's Pro Cycling teammate Christina Gokey Smith expected to line up for their part of a $20,000 prize purse.

The prize structure has not deterred the men's field, which has a robust list of entrants including Oscar Sevilla's Team Medellin.

The race will also be a part of the Speed Week series - eight different events kicking off on August 20 with the Spartanburg Crit, and continuing at Athens, Grant Park, and Springfield, Georgia, Walterboro, South Carolina, and La Grange, Hapeville, and College Park in Georgia.

Putting the women at the end of the programme was an "intentional statement by the team" - the L5 Flyers, led by amateur racer Stacy Robinson.

"The L5 Flyers are confronting an abiding problem in cycling: disinterest in the sport among female athletes," the press release stated. "With small turnouts, organizers have been forced to combine fields, resulting in less compelling races and a lack of enthusiasm among potential female competitors.

"We want more ladies putting a foot down at the starting line, so we want to increase the visibility of their events. We have daughters who race and we want more girls racing! So far, the Grant Park crit has drawn commitments from some of the most skilled, powerful and fastest women in the country. When the whistle blows, the L5 Flyers will be initiating a new tradition in pro cycling."

Other events in the Speed Week series are offering equal prize money for men and women, with Athens Twilight's purse set at $5,900 for each fields.