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Women’s Amgen time trial, invitation-only, offers $10,000 purse

Organizers of the Amgen Tour of California are adding a women’s time trial, to be held the same day and on the same course as the men’s time trial stage in Solvang.

The Amgen Tour of California Women’s International Time Trial Challenge presented by Specialized and SRAM, will offer a $10,000 prize list and is open only to a dozen invited riders, including Kristin Armstrong, Emma Pooley, Amber Neben, Judith Arndt, and Evelyn Stevens.

Organizers had contemplated tying the prize payout to how many men each woman beat on the 15-mile course. But they told VeloNews Thursday that the prize list will be distributed in a traditional manner, with payouts down to the 12th finisher.

Linking the women’s prizes to the men’s “was a surprisingly polarizing idea,” said Andrew Messick, president of event owner AEG Sports.

“It had tremendous support among the athletes who were competing; they universally thought it was a great way to highlight women’s performance.

“But others thought that defining women’s performance in terms relative to the men didn’t send the right message … We want to showcase women’s racing in a way that is compelling, and we think we can do that by having the best women in the world and showing the race to a worldwide audience through Versus.”

The race will start at 11:30 a.m., Friday May 20. The men’s race starts at 12:30.

Messick said AEG will release a list of the 12 invitees later this week. “It will be a good mix of established athletes and younger athletes and international as well as American riders,” he said.

The Amgen Tour of California has held associated women’s events in 2008 and 2009, with a criterium in Santa Rosa. There was no women’s event last year.

“We want to be supportive of women’s racing. They work incredibly hard and it’s a shame they don’t get the kind of recognition that the men are able to get. So we are happy to do even this small thing and we are gereatful for the support of sponsors like Specialized and SRAM,” Messick said.

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