Sunday's Philadelphia World Cup marked a significant milestone in women's cycling: not only did it return the World Cup to US soil for the first time since 2001, but it put the women in the prime time slot in the afternoon, focusing the majority of the crowds, the television coverage and an equal split of the prize money to the women for the first time.
The momentous day wasn't lost on anyone in the peloton, neither the women nor the men, who got a taste of what the women typically endure with early morning starts, lost sleep and sparse crowds.
"It's a significant day for women's cycling," said race winner Lizzie Armitstead. "It's my first time racing in the US, and I feel like it's my first time racing in front of crowds like this outside of Belgium."
Armitstead has been vocal in her encouragement of better treatment for women, and she felt satisfied with the changes she saw in Philadelphia. "It's good - it feels like it's worth it to speak out and not be intimidated by the backlash you may get. I always try to express things in a positive way, but sometimes it can feel like you're only being negative. So it's good to see things are happening."
Optum's Jesse Anthony was one of several riders who took to Twitter to commiserate with the women after having to wake up at 5am to get breakfast before his 173km race at 8am. "To be honest, it's interesting to wrap your head around," he told Cyclingnews. "We're just used to getting a nice afternoon time slot. I'm psyched it's back to being a women's World Cup. I used to come and watch it when it was a World Cup and a big men's race, too. It's cool to see that happening. There's a big movement in women's cycling right now. I'd like to see the men's race grow, too, back to a 1.1 or HC race, but one step at a time. To make a World Cup here is awesome."
Bigla's Sharon Laws loved having a leisurely morning. "I think some of the guys were annoyed they had to get up early to race. I think it's great the women get to be centre stage and we're going to get all the crowds. It's really great for women's cycling."
Two-time winner Evelyn Stevens (Boels Dolmans) felt a big difference this year starting at 12:30 compared with the past two years when the women started early in the morning. "Even riding here you can feel the difference. Usually when we get here it's dead quiet, and it livens throughout the day. Now it's totally awake when we come in. It's really exciting. It's a big day for women's cycling. It's a step in the right direction, showing that we're the showcase event," Stevens said.
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