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Cyclocross

Pay Day: A conversation with Georgia Gould

It’s been a busy year for Georgia Gould. The 27-year-old swept the National Mountain Bike Series, grabbed her first podium finish at a UCI World Cup, a top-10 at the UCI mountain-bike world championships and won the Crank Brother’s U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series. And now, the Luna rider is taking on the Union Cycliste International, asking for equal minimum prize money payouts for the top finishers in both women’s and men’s races.To: Union Cycliste Internationale (U.C.I.)

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By Fred Dreier

Georgia Gould believes in equal minimum payouts for men and women.

Georgia Gould believes in equal minimum payouts for men and women.

Photo: Fred Dreier (file photo)

It’s been a busy year for Georgia Gould. The 27-year-old swept the National Mountain Bike Series, grabbed her first podium finish at a UCI World Cup, a top-10 at the UCI mountain-bike world championships and won the Crank Brother’s U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross series. And now, the Luna rider is taking on the Union Cycliste International, asking for equal minimum prize money payouts for the top finishers in both women’s and men’s races.

To: Union Cycliste Internationale (U.C.I.)
We, the undersigned, find it regrettable that there is still a considerable disparity between the UCI minimum prize money for men and women. We understand that because competition in the men’s field is deeper, more places receive prize money. We do not understand why the women who are receiving prize money receive less than their male counterparts. Therefore we propose that the UCI show leadership and mandate equal prize money for the top five men and women. Article 3 of the UCI Constitution states: “The UCI willcarry out its activities in compliance with the principles of: a) equalitybetween all the members and all the athletes, license-holders and officials,without racial, political, religious, or other discrimination.” We askthe UCI to honor its commitment to equality.The Undersigned

Gould penned and distributed the online petition on Thursday. By this weekend, roughly 900 people had signed. VeloNews caught up with Gould on the eve of the 2007 USA Cycling national cyclocross championships to understand why we should sign.

VeloNews.com: So what exactly is the petition asking for?

Georgia Gould: I’m talking about equal minimum for the top-five finishers. That’s a good place to start. It’s equal minimum — if the promoters want to make the men’s prize money above the minimum, well that’s great. I realize that the men’s field is deeper, and they should certainly get paid deeper for having a deeper field. But I don’t think that women should be penalized. This isn’t about taking money away from men; it’s about bringing more money to women.

VN: How did the idea come about for writing this?

GG: It’s something that I’ve been talking about with other women and men about for a while. So at the New Jersey [at the November 16-17 USGP rounds] I won the races and [Luna teammate] Katerina [Nash] won the SRAM Most Aggressive Rider award, which is an awesome prize, and if you win it you get $250. Well that was more than I got for winning the race. I got like $220 or $230 bucks, and I was like ‘Really? That doesn’t sound right.” I had wanted to do a written petition and have it ready by the [December 1-2] Portland races, because I think having it in paper gives it more credence. But I didn’t get it done, and it turns out that having it online, it has reached a lot more people.

I realize that the men’s field is deeper, and they should certainly get paid deeper for having a deeper field. But I don’t think that women should be penalized. This isn’t about taking money away from men; it’s about bringing more money to women.

Georgia Gould

VN: It has reached a lot of folks. I’ve had it forwarded to me from six different people in two days.

GG: I figured I’d write it and email it out and see what happens. It’s worth a try, right? The response I’ve gotten is much more positive than I expected. People write me to tell me they’re putting it on their blog or their podcast. It’s cool to see how many guys are signing it and how many people from different countries. I sent it to CanadianCyclist.com and now there are a ton of people from Canada. Katerina sent it to the Czech cycling and now a ton of Czechs have signed it. A lot of people read it and don’t even know that the payouts are that much different.

VN: I admit I am one.

GG: I went online to the UCI site and was originally just thinking about putting together one for cyclocross, but I figured I would expand it to all cycling events. So there are pages and pages of requirements for different races in terms of rules and payments. If it’s in the ‘States or Europe, it it’s a mountain-bike race or ‘cross. Actually in mountain-bike racing the top-three payouts at World Cups are equal for men and women. But in ‘cross it’s pretty bad. You can’t even win C1 points as a women, you can’t get any better than C2 points. That means for a man to win a C1 he gets $1000 and a women gets $200. That’s crap.

VN: Yes, but the argument they usually give is that the men’s fields are deeper and more competitive.

Gould en route to victory in Park City, Utah.

Gould en route to victory in Park City, Utah.

Photo: Fred Dreier (file photo)

GG: Yeah, and the reasoning that people give is really circular logic. It’s like ‘Well look, the women’s field isn’t as deep and not as many participate, so that’s the reason why we should keep it this way.” That’s your reasoning? That’s using the way it is to justify the way it is. I’m saying, hey, maybe we should put some money into it. Maybe then women wouldn’t have to work full time while they race.

VN: True, but I think the wisdom is that there are 20 guys who are good enough to win a men’s race, and not as many women who are fast enough to win a women’s race.

GG: I don’t think that’s true — 20 dudes didn’t win the World Cup this year. Not for ‘cross or mountain bike. Yeah, there are 20 strong guys at the front of the race, but there are a lot of strong women too. [Julien] Absalon dominated the [mountain-bike] World Cup and [Sven] Nys dominates cyclocross, so I don’t think that’s a good argument. Look, I raced the mountain-bike World Cups this year and I think there were just as many people watching the women’s race as the men’s race. I think if they promoted the drama in the women’s races as much as they did for the men’s, it would be more of a success.

Look at the women’s cyclocross circuit this year — it’s been more exciting than the men’s. It’s like the argument car makers have. ‘Oh, no one wants to buy a Prius!’ Well, maybe it’s because you spend all of your advertising dollars on the SUV.

VN: Was the amount you earned in prize money this year a significant part of your overall take?

GG: No, not right now it’s not. If I wasn’t earning a salary I would not be able to race full time. I would have to get a job. I know plenty of fast women who race, road racers, mountain-bike racers, who work full time jobs to support themselves. That’s great — I don’t think having this prize money is going to change that. But it’s a start. I can’t think that promoters wouldn’t be able to come up with that from their sponsors, and I think some promoters use the UCI minimum as a reason not to pay fairly. We ask why it isn’t higher, and they say it’s because of the UCI. Well, now we’re going to the UCI. There are changes. Jeff Frost did it on the National Mountain Bike Series last year. A lot of women contacted him, and he totally stepped up. He didn’t have to do it and he did. I know that a lot of women and men appreciated that. So after seeing that, I’m just like, ‘Well come on, if everybody is on the same page, lets try and change it.’

VN: So what’s next?

GG: I’m going to write a longer proposal for the UCI. I’m still trying to figure it out — maybe I’ll give it a few weeks. I’m not putting a definite timeline on it. I’m just trying to see the response. I’d like to get a race promoter to send me a letter of support. That would be a good start.

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