Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Grass Ceiling

(Deidre Winfied and Randall Root racing men's 1-3 race at VACX on Saturday. Photo by Wes Cheney.)

A woman in my view ascends to hero status when she can compete with the men. This can be seen as flawed thinking to many, but I really can’t help myself. I feel this way mostly because there are still so many inequities in the world of female racing. It starts with purse, of course. Yes, it is rare for the pro/elite women’s purse to equal or even be half of the pro men’s purse. We as promoters on Tripower bow to those unwritten rules that dictate the largest possible men’s pro purse, and when we consider the women’s purse, we are more about making sure elite women get paid more than the amateur men rather than making sure they are equal to the pro men.

I agree to this method mostly because of the numbers game—we just don’t get high numbers of pro-elite women who travel to Hampton Roads (aka The Island) to race, so in the past, we have paid some pretty big numbers to women with a low turnout. I also agree to it because, heck, the NRC and UCI races do not set a good example to lower tiered races like ours. NRC and UCI races are guaranteed the very best women in the country, but they still have purses that are half the payout of men. I think most are familiar with the payout vs. turnout debate, but the whole catch-22 of the situation stifles women’s cycling at all levels. It is an old debate but one I think we need to continue to revisit for solutions.

So the very best women enter the men’s races. I know enough about cycling to understand that purse is just one reason women enter men’s races. It has more to do with having stiffer competition so as to prepare them for the world class women’s events. What I love about Deidre is that she gave full honor to the women’s race that same day which she did 2 hours prior to the men’s race. You can tell by her lap times: she had an average time of 16.7 compared with 16.9 in the men’s race. It makes sense that her average pace in men’s race would be higher since she had more competition to push her and pace with, but it’s clear to me that she gave 100% to the women’s race even though she was riding with a significant gap over second place. That’s one more blade planted in the grass ceiling of cyclocross.

See Race Results


Unknown said...

Down with the Patriarchy!

Seriously though, I gotta agree with you, Liz. Women need bigger purses!

Anonymous said...

Hello Schleeper. Didnt expect to find you here. It's been quite some time. See you are still at the cycling!

Silly said...

Dee Dee is such a tremendous athlete and she is also super nice and easy going. That makes her an even better person to compete with. Not that I competed with her, but I have stood next to her in a few races. And there she goes....