I debated about publishing this post but I felt it was important to make our viewpoint public. As (almost) everyone knows by now, an invitational women’s time trial will be held in conjunction with the Amgen Tour of California. Billed as the Amgen Tour of California Women’s International Time Trial Challenge presented by Specialized and SRAM, the event will take place in Solvang on the same course as the men’s ITT. Starting one hour before the men, 12 women will race for the $10,000 prize pool.
The great news is that it’s a straight prize pool, no battle of the sexes gimmick as President of AEG Sports, Andrew Messick told cyclingnews. For listening to the fans, we applaud the organizers and we throw our complete support behind the event.
When the news first hit that the time trial would not only be using the tired women vs men angle but also base the payouts on besting men’s time, we were shocked and yes offended. For us, it demeaned the athletes and the sport that we love. It smacked of reindeer games as Neil Browne called it. The original concept was saying that women’s cycling is not marketable in itself and that it needs a gimmick to sell. Unfortunately, that message was re-enforced by Messick’s comments to podiumcafe.
At that moment, we could not and would not support such an event and we, Stephanie and I, publicly stated our decision to not cover the event. One of the founding tenets of podiuminsight has been to provide equal coverage to women and men whenever possible. No angle, but straight on racing coverage. Resources, time and energy have been expanded in order to do so. We were there in the pouring rain in Santa Rosa for the Tour of California Women’s Criterium while the men were racing. We were there for all four stages of the Tour of Missouri Women’s Series (or Gateway Cup), held prior to the 2009 Tour of Missouri, while many of our media colleagues were not. We alternated the on-site, in caravan, coverage between the men’s and women’s stages at the SRAM Tour of the Gila when they race concurrently. Our actions have demonstrated our support to women’s cycling over the years and, we feel, cycling in general.
To get back to the original time trial women-vs-men time trial, we did read and discuss all opinions from riders we respect tremendously but still we could not support it. Did we feel so strongly about this because we are both women that have been working professionally for many years and have battled sexism? Maybe. Or maybe it’s simply because we are fans of and respect the athletes in professional cycling, both women and men.
We were happily surprised to see that AEG and the Amgen Tour of California have now decided to fully endorse and respect women’s cycling. It is a shame that the event conflicts with the Chrono de Gatineau, the UCI race in Canada but we can live with that – for now.
On May 2nd, we will be there to cheer on reigning Olympic gold medalist and former world champion Kristin Armstrong, defending world champion Emma Pooley, former world champion Amber Neben, former world champion Judith Arndt, current US Champion Evelyn Stevens and the other seven women competing.
We also are hopeful that this event is only the first step and that the long promised Women’s Stage Race will come to fruition at next year’s Tour of California.