Wednesday 21 March 2012

Prize disparity at the Dwars door Vlaanderen

Here's an interesting little factoid for you all. The winner of the men's race at the Dwars door Vlaanderen will receive €5785. The winner of the women's race will receive €1000.
The women's race is, of course, much shorter than the men's - 81.5km compared to either 199.5 or 201km (the former is the distance stated on the route details, the latter is stated elsewhere). So if we divide the prize by the distance, we find that the winning woman is going to receive €12.67 for each kilometre; around 44% of the  €29 (199.5km) or €28.78 (201km) that the winning man will receive.
Margriet Kloppenburg
(image credit: Margriet Kloppenberg)
Or at least, that's what Cyclopunk thought. Since then, Danish road and cyclo cross rider Margriet Kloppenburg (see the comments after this article), who says she's happy just to be able to race, has informed me that the top prize is not in fact €1000 at all - that's the entire prize fund for the women's race, to be shared among the winning riders. I'd wondered about that when I read the event rules, but the idea that €1000 could be the whole pot was so ridiculous I dismissed it.

Any one of them could earn more than  €1000 each week working in a full-time job. Split between them, it's peanuts. In fact, with the way food prices have increased in the last couple of years, their prizes would only just about allow them to afford a packet of peanuts.

That, of course, is why there are so few women's races mid-week: the riders are working in full time jobs, because the prize money and team salaries don't give them enough money to live on. It's also why women's cycling isn't as "developed" (as Pat McQuaid likes to say) as men's cycling - it's not that female riders are any less competitive, it's because they simply don't have the time to devote to their sport like the men do.

Come on, Pat. Sort it out.
(image credit: Oblongo CC BY-SA 2.0
The Dwars door Vlaanderen is showing the way ahead by including a women's race and it's not the organiser's fault that so little money is available - the problem is that the sport simply doesn't have the sponsorship. The way to get more sponsors is to have more exposure, because commercial companies other than those directly involved with bicycle or athletic equipment manufacture (with the possible exception of Rabobank and one or two others) don't hand over the cash for the good of cycling. They do it because they want to advertise stuff to the fans. The way to get more exposure? More races. The UCI can help with that one by encouraging more existing men's events to run corresponding women's races, like the Dwars does. It wouldn't hurt if some of that vast pile of cash they've been bragging about recently could be used to help support women's cycling, too.

Kloppenberg also says that the women's prize fund at this Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem is, incredibly, only €500;which may be why at the time of writing the information isn't available on the Flanders Classics website - the poor organisers are probably embarrassed.

Come on, Pat. Sort it out.


  1. price money is actually "worse" the prize money in the women race is 1000 euro in total...

  2. I wondered about that, but just €1000 in total seemed so ludicrously low I assumed it must be the top prize. That's shocking.

  3. Had nothing to do with man/women but pure classification. Dwars door Vlaanderen men = 1.1 women = national, Gent-Wevelgem men = WT, women = national. But I also have to say, that I don't know where the difference between Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem comes from although they are both national races. A good start would be equal classifications, to oblige organizations to organize a men/women edition (minimum WT-races) and organize women's races so, that at least the last hour of race can covered on Tv live just before the men's coverage starts so possible sponsors have sure exposure in WomensCycling to. What do you think? GerSebastian78

  4. The thing is, if you look at races with equal classification, you see the same phenomenon. Whichever way you look at it, female cyclists win far less than their male counterparts - which is not just ethically wrong, it would be illegal in business (in any civilised state, anyway). Yes, these two races are categorised differently; but had the men's race have been a National, the prize fund would still have been greater for the men. There's just more money in men's cycling.

    As stated in the last part of the article, I'm not sure if the UCI should oblige events to run women's race because that could lead to a reaction against it - nobody likes being told what to do. However, I would like to see them strongly encouraging it and putting money into women's cycling so that it becomes worth the organiser's time and effort to do so, and makes them want to do it. Sadly, simply running men's and women's races in conjunction has not led to more women's cycling on TV - this race, for example, was not televised anywhere so far as I could see. Here in Britain, even the Women's World Championship final was tucked away on the BBC's "red button" digital channel where many people missed it. Therefore, the UCI need to find ways to persuade broadcasters that there's an audience - and the way to do that is allocation of funds and, ideally, a women's cycling council.