A few days ago, Cyclocross Magazine was pointed to the website, The Bonebell, to check out the fundraiser that they were doing to create equal payouts for women in the Chicago Cross Cup series. The push for equal payouts for men and women has become more of a heated source of debate in recent years, and has a habit of polarizing a community. Below, check out the original posting from the site, and read the Chicago Cross Cup promoter’s responses. Then, let us know what you think in the comments

From The Chicago Cyclocross Cup:
The Chicago Cyclocross Cup works very hard every year to organize the best possible series of amateur cyclocross races that we can with the resources at hand and the accumulated knowledge of everyone associated with the series. We always keep an eye towards continual growth and sustainability of races especially given the poor economy of the last few years. We want a series that works the best it can for the greatest number of people including our riders, promoters, sponsors, pets, spectators, Nanna Jones, Uncle Phil, and everyone else.
Every year the CCC makes a few small changes based on what we learned the previous season. All during the season we try to figure out what works and what doesn’t for our series so we can move forward the next year with small improvements. Each race in the series is hosted by a different club/team/organization that has their own set of challenges, venue issues, costs, permits, vendors, NIMBYs, etc. The CCC acts as a umbrella organization that sets a minimum standard to which all promoters are held. The CCC sets these standards so as to not put smaller attendance races in the red while making sure the larger attendance races are giving back appropriately (if they aren’t doing so on their own already) and not shopping for few extra sets of carbon tubulars on Monday morning. Its a tricky balance sometimes but the overriding theme is to have consistency, in every aspect, from race to race throughout the entire series. However at the end of the day each promoter has the final say in how their race is run.
In 2009 the CCC standardized minimum payouts across all events in an effort to increase consistency from race to race. In 2010 minimum payouts were changed to all cash (except Juniors) and increased across the board (except for the Cat 1/2/3 race winner which was lowered). At this time payouts for the Women 1/2/3 race were also set to the same dollar amount as the Cat 1/2/3 race. Total minimum payouts for each race in the series were on par with other non-UCI races across the country but spread across 8 categories. The dollar amounts per category were therefore smaller but consistent. Minimum 2011 Payouts were kept the same as in 2010 as the race promoters agreed the economy was still doing poorly. Race entry fees have remained the same since 2009.
Seven of the CCC’s 12 promoters voluntarily increased payouts across all categories in 2012. Many of these promoters have also increased payouts across the board for many years beforehand. The 5 that did not included the series’ smaller and/or newer races. The one thing we have found consistently is that increased payouts do not necessarily equate to higher turnout nor higher levels of competition. It seems location, time of year, and (gasp!) weather have more of an impact on total participation … yes even at cyclocross events.
The CCC has received requests from a few top level riders to increase payouts in the Cat 1/2/3 race at least since 2009. Given what we see as an unbelievably consistent increase in attendance, and despite a still dismal economy, the CCC felt it was time to increase the payout minimums for the Cat 1/2/3’s in 2012, at the very least on a trial basis. Unfortunately, looking around the country we could only find two examples of other CX series (WIMAC) that have a publicly available standardized minimum payout schedule (not just total payout) for all races, but none that scales with attendance numbers. If we missed one please let us know!
Comparing the CCC’s attendance numbers from 2011, general costs all promoters share, and how other non-CX races incrementally increase payouts we came up with our 2012 payout schedule which scales the Cat 1/2/3 minimum payouts with the TOTAL number of pre-reg’d riders for the event. Larger events payout more, smaller events payout less. The intention here was to see how such a system worked with one category and possibly roll it out to other categories in the future at a sustainable level if it worked.
Sadly, we also recently looked around the country and could not find another CX series with equal payouts for top level men and women. Again, if we missed one please let us know! All the really big race series have UCI-sanctioned races which do not have equal payouts for men and women. Nittany Lion CX is the closest we could find. Top level amateur races either have unequal payouts or do not publish their dollar amounts, instead just mentioning “Top 5 – Cash”. Wisconsin is close and several of the races in that series voluntarily payout equally, as do races in the CCC.
So unfortunately now the CCC is in the national majority and we’ll work to correct that in the future. But for the 2012 season we’ve already set the gears in motion and we’ll be running scaled minimum payouts just for the Cat 1/2/3 race… in addition to new separate overall scoring for Women Cat 3’s, a new Single Speed category, and Pactimo series leader jerseys for all categories. We applaud the actions of Chicago Women’s CX for taking the situation into their own hands to improve something they feel so passionate about. We agree women should be paid equal (as evidenced from the past 2 years) but we’re always looking to improve, even if that means being unequal for a period of time in order to get there.
It should go without saying that the CCC values and respects all of our riders, which we think shows in our attendance numbers and the number of sponsors that approach us each year (32 for 2012!) to be a part of the series. The CCC also always values direct and open communication and in fact we encourage it so we can make the series better. We encourage anyone with feedback about the series to not hesitate and contact us directly.
The great thing about this topic being brought up in a public forum is it brings it to everyone’s attention and raises everyone’s game. Regardless of your opinion you can see the facts and make an informed decision. Thankfully all of the CCC promoters who increased payouts across the board in 2011 are doing so again this year (not just the ones mentioned by Chicago Women’s cyclocross). Bike racing has never been a charity and some of our promoters have significant costs associated with their events that others do not. But all of our promoters give back to the sport they love in some way, many times sponsoring teams with large numbers of women and juniors. They may not always focus on women, but they are always focusing on cyclocross. At the end of the day we’re all trying to do our best and put on the best cyclocross series we can… and we hope everyone associated with the Chicago Cyclocross Cup can appreciate that, have a little patience, and most importantly have fun racing.

From The Bonebell:

Last year, the Chicago Cross Cup guaranteed equal minimum payouts for both elite men and women. Under a new policy, the elite men’s purse may increase to three times that of the women’s elite payout. While it’s too late to change the series guidelines for this year, external funds from bike industry leaders, as well as individual donors, will help bridge the payout gap. These contributors believe in equal payouts for women and are willing to show their support in a tangible way.

The Chicago Women’s CX Fund will accept donations in cash and product to raise money to equalize the Womens’ Category 1/2/3 payouts in 2012 Chicago Cyclocross Cup races. Product donations will be auctioned online with proceeds added to the fund.

The fund has received initial contributions from Ruckus Components, TATI Cycles, The Bonebell and various individual donors. Equal payouts have already been guaranteed at the xXx Racing-AthletiCo season opener in Jackson Park and at Hopkins Park through Half Acre Cycling, Robots Powered by Love, and North Central Cyclery.

To contribute, please email or Paypal to: [email protected]