Opinion: R3GB prize money
With a £50k prize offered to the winning man and £15k for the winning woman, Shu Pillinger questions the short and long-term implications of unequal prize money at the R3GB...
Unequal prize money sends completely the wrong message to all participants and I'm extremely disappointed that a newcomer on the ultra-cycling scene has seen fit to reverse the trend of progress in promoting equality in our sport with one really ill-conceived notion of rewarding success on the basis of participation numbers.
In order to compete in this new race, a woman has to put in the same level of training, raise the same entry fee, take the same amount of time off work, rally the same number of friends to crew, pay the same expenses for a support vehicle and then race the same distance.
Irrespective of the fact that our eager racer goes on to win her gender category, having no control over the number of competitors she has, the overriding implication of a £15k prize instead of the £50k offered to the winning man is that her effort and achievement is worth less.
So, what happens if a woman wins overall? We, of the women's ultra-cycling scene, know full well of ladies who could challenge the men for a top spot. Would the second place male finisher get over three times as much prize money as the first place female finisher?
It's well known that the longer the endurance race, the narrower the gap between men and women. Take a look at any of the big unsupported bike races where there were a flurry of female overall winners last year. A supported race such as the R3GB takes on another dimension. A crew can make or break a racer's chance of winning. It is not a given that the fastest finisher will be a man over this distance, terrain and the good old British weather.
I would urge the organisers to reconsider their position on this advertised prize money. The pitiful excuse of "150 men, 50 women, hopefully equal numbers in 2018" is doing nothing to encourage women to participate. Whose restrictions are these? What woman wants to be part of an openly chauvinistic, "we're letting you join in, but we don't think you'll challenge the men or deserve the same prize" attitude displayed by the sponsors and organisers of this race? Open it up to as many women as want to enter. Let's see.
Make the prize money equal and encourage women to make those brave steps to sign up. Let them have a competitive field. Let them compete on equal terms.
Get more from Shu here