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Q&A: Lindsay Goldman on creating grassroots demand for women’s pro racing

Lindsay Goldman believes women's racing should create grassroots demand for races and media coverage

Lindsay Goldman had a lot to say.

Goldman sat in the press conference after the opening stage of the Amgen Tour of California women’s race Empowered with SRAM, having won the Most Combative jersey. Someone from the crowd asked Goldman her thoughts on a proposed amendment to a California state bill that would require equal use of California roadways for companies operating sporting events—a law that would, in essence, require the Tour of California to offer the same number of racing days for women as for men.

Goldman delivered a minutes-long answer.

“If the business case is there for having equal days for women to race, I think that is excellent,” Goldman said, midway through her answer. “Simply pushing for it because it’s fair? Unfortunately, business isn’t fair, and we are driven by economics, and not fairness, in the world. I would love to find a way to make it so that there is a business model that works to have equal number of days for women, equal pay for women, and equality across the sport.”

Goldman said her perspective is informed by her own experiences selling sponsorship as co-owner of a professional cycling team, Hagens Berman-Supermint. VeloNews spoke with Goldman to discuss her perspective and her experiences. To hear our full interview, listen to the most recent episode of The VeloNews Podcast, which is embedded in the story below:

VN: Before we get started, I was hoping you could elaborate on your answer from the other day. 

Lindsay Goldman: While I applaud efforts to push for equality in sport, and as a female cyclist I believe we deserve equal opportunities to shine and show what we can do, I think using a legal system and using exiting laws to manipulate the race into providing equality is a backwards approach. I think you need to focus on it from a business perspective, which is how can we make it financially feasible for there to be equal number of days for the women? There are a lot of elements to that. We need to have spectators who want to come out and watch. We need cities that can provide road closures. We need to have every expense that goes into putting on a race covered somehow and that need to be driven by an economic model that makes sense and that comes from having businesses behind the proposal that is profitable for everybody involved.

Without that, just simply asking for equal days or finding a way to legally require it, you can’t give blood from a stone. If there’s not money and resources to make it possible, then all the hoping and legally mandating, all that’s going to do is effectively shut down the race. Some people would argue if there’s money to do it for the men’s race, then they should be able to put that toward the women. While I think that’s not entirely inaccurate, I also believe that men and women’s cycling are different businesses and products. We’re selling different things. The people that are watching my races are different than the people watching the men’s races in a lot of cases. They’re different consumers, and to treat them as completely equal ignores a lot of the nuances in either of the businesses. Until we can really drive the fans out to watch the women and demand more women’s racing, it’s difficult to tell the race organization you have to do it this way, simply because there’s some laws that can be manipulated to force that.

VN: If legislating it and forcing bodies to enact a change isn’t the best way forward in your mind, how should women’s cycling break through some of these barriers standing in its way?

LG: You have to go to the grassroots level. The only way to drive any interest is to create demand. If you don’t have any demand, then nothing works… We need to find a way to create demand, and for me, I see creating demand through connecting to people that would want to consume women’s cycling. Getting them to be a part of it… For so many people, cycling is that weird sport that the person on your street is doing. To the typical person, cycling is foreign… So, creating demand where people can find it interesting. Watching a crit is fascinating. Oh, these people race multiple times throughout the season in the country? I should want to watch that. We have to find a way to tap into that and generate that demand, so that if a race is happening, like today, a stage at the Tour of California for the women happened, but if nobody is asking to watch it, then why would a company spend money and effort to broadcast it? I think there is a growing demand, and as the demand grows, it will become loud enough and obvious enough that businesses will meet that demand to livestream races and to get more spectators out. But until people are asking for it, it’s very difficult to then, as a cyclist or team owner, say, like you gotta provide it.

VN: It’s about creating demand so you can go to these stakeholders and convince them that women’s racing is financially beneficial to them. I’m not entirely sure how to go about doing that. 

LG: Two years ago, I realized in talking to [sponsor] Steve Berman that if we needed to make the team more impactful, we needed to do something to drive demand. It was a small step, but we created an ambassador program, where we allowed women of any age to join. Each ambassador is paired with a rider on the team, and that ambassador becomes a part of the team. They get team kits and sunglasses and products from our sponsors. They are basically members of our team in a lot of ways they’re out riding and racing in our kits. We even created a USA Cycling club so they could be licensed to be amateur members of our team. In doing that we got women who were not racing; not really even remotely close to competitive cycling. We have a woman who is a bike messenger. I wanted my riders to break out of the bubble and look elsewhere for ways to connect with women. So, there are women riding bikes all over, and then there are pro cycling women, and they weren’t interacting. If we take the time to learn about these women, and figure out what they’re doing on bikes: What motivates you? What freaks you out about getting on a bike? And those women get to look into our world and get to ask us questions. We have a Facebook group where there’s ongoing dialogue about pro cycling questions. I got a question the other day: Hey, I just joined a team and there are men on the team. What are your thoughts on dating a team member?

We get to share these experiences, but ultimately what it’s doing is expanding our pro cycling bubble to include women who are not in that, and make it so that they’re part of our world and we’re part of theirs. I know more about women across America are doing in cycling and it makes me feel more included, and ultimately it’s made them come to our races. They want to try our sponsored product. They’re excited about the team and they understand the world of pro cycling better, enough so they want to consume it more and make an effort to buy the livestreams that USA Crits is doing. If every single pro cycling team made more of an effort to reach out to the people they are trying to appeal to, ultimately even if they don’t’ realize it, I think it would be more inclusive and those same people would be clamoring more to see the races and watch them in person and pay for livestreams.

This excerpt has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview, listen to our most recent episode of The VeloNews Podcast.