Race organizers of the Santos Tour Down Under and Santos Women’s Tour Down Under announced on Saturday night that the riders who competed in the 2018 women’s race will receive additional prize money that will put them on par with their male counterparts. The increase in pay comes from the South Australian State Government and will apply to all future events.
South Australian tourism minister Leon Bignell said women’s racers deserve the same prize money as men. “Every winner who got a prize last week, we’re going to send them another check,” Bignell told VeloNews. “It doesn’t hurt any less if you break a bone. And they’re doing all the hard work. The blood, sweat and tears is the same for the men so that they’re not getting paid the same as the men doesn’t make sense.”
Bignell met with UCI president David Lappartient after the women’s Tour Down Under concluded. After finding the money in the regional government budget, they signed off on the deal to immediate effect.
“The response has been amazing,” he said. “Riders were telling us that this is a game-changer for women’s cycling, so let’s hope that other organizers can follow the example.”
The additional $90,000 female riders will receive gives them the same prize money as the men for each of the stages and the main four classifications — general, young rider, best sprinter and queen of the mountain.
The women were initially competing for a total prize purse of $15,000.
It will be interesting to see what other races do. Last year, Bignell’s government eliminated podium girls and replaced them with junior racers on the post-race podium. Many other races quickly followed the example, so everyone involved with women’s cycling hope others follow the lead.
The Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, in its third year as a UCI-sanctioned race, was upgraded to 2.1 status in 2018 and ran the week before the men’s race. Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) took home the overall title with American Lauren Stephens (Cylance) in second and Australian national time trial champion Katrin Garfoot (UniSA) in third.
Cyclists’ Alliance, a riders union that represents the interests of professional female racers when dealing with both the UCI and pro teams, tweeted out its support. The group was created by retired riders Iris Slappendel and Carmen Small, and current racer Gracie Elvin, who races for Mitchelton-Scott.
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“I applaud the steps taken by the South Australian Government to replace the podium girls with junior cyclists at both men’s and women race presentations,” UCI President David Lappartient said. “I am a strong advocate for women empowerment in sports in general and cycling more specifically.”
“The UCI has indeed introduced equal prize money for men and women across all UCI World Championships and World Cups, and it is fantastic to South Australia once again take the lead, elevating women in sport through offering equal prize money for male and female competitors in the Santos Tour Down Under. I am confident equal prize money will support a significant transformation for women in cycling.”
It is important to note that in cyclocross there is equal prize money for C1 and C2 events, but not at the World Cup level. The Telenet UCI World Cup stop in Waterloo, Wisconsin in September did offer equal payout for men and women thanks to race organizers Trek Bikes. It was the first cyclocross World Cup in history to offer an equal payout for the elite men and elite women.
“We’re absolutely delighted with the announcement of equal prize money,” Santos Women’s Tour Down Under Race Director Kimberley Conte said. “This is a huge leap forward, not only for our Women’s Tour Down Under riders but female athletes all over the world.
“It’s really great to have the support of the State Government and the UCI, to continue to elevate this race and recognize the skill and efforts of our riders. We have women coming from all over her the world for the Women’s Tour Down Under. Having equal prize money will result in even more interest from top international female riders and help take this race to the next level.”
It remains to be seen whether the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under will also receive additional TV coverage in the coming years. For 2018, there were nightly highlight videos posted on the official social media accounts of the race, but no live TV coverage. A one-hour highlights review show of the race was broadcast on Sunday locally.
Andrew Hood contributed reporting