by Ken Getchell

Cincinnati has a proud baseball tradition, the Red Stockings team of 1869 are widely regarded as the first openly professional baseball team, three years before the FA Cup, soccer’s oldest competition, was even founded. Their successors, the Cincinnati Reds, have won the World Series five times. But when people say Mitch Graham is “stepping up to the plate”, they’re not talking ball games. Graham, promoter of the UCI-C1 Bio-Wheels/United Dairy Farmers Harbin Park International that concludes the three-day Cincinnati International Cyclocross Festival October 10-12, is one of the first promoters to step up and accept Georgia Gould’s call to pay top finishing women the same as the men at international races.”I’m mainly racing (in Cincinnati) for the money since Mitch is offering more for the women than any other race in the country right now,” says American superstar Katie Compton. “He’s supporting Georgia’s petition to offer even prize money to the top women and I think that is awesome. I do this as a job and yes, I love racing bikes, but when I show up to a national event and make less money winning the race than someone who wins “most aggressive rider” there is something wrong with that. Would you want your wife or daughter getting paid 50% less than a male co-worker simply because she is a girl?”

Recently retired Canadian cycling legend Lyne Bessette said disgustedly last year, “”At a UCI race, the guys will win, like, a thousand bucks and we get $175. It’s like we’re in the kitchen all week and we only come out during the race.”

Compton’s husband and mechanic, Mark Legg-Compton is even more blunt. With his characteristic New Zealand forthrightness, he adds, “The UCI is old-fashioned in thinking that women shouldn’t get paid as much as men, and needs to get on-board with reality. Women deserve to make the same prize money as men. I know any person in this country expects their wife or daughter to be paid the same as men for performing their job. What is this, 1961? This is not just a sport, it’s a job and I believe the US has an opportunity to lead by example and pay their professional athletes equal prize money for performing their jobs.”

Some are listening. The recent two-day UCI C2 MadCross “Jonathan Page’s Planet Bike Cup” featured equal men’s and women’s payouts on both days. And Mitch Graham, promoter of the Oct. 12 Bio Wheels/United Dairy Farmers International that’s part of the Cincinnati International Cyclocross Festival, leaned on sponsors like Reece-Campbell Construction to more than double the Women’s purse at his UCI C1 event. In the process, he became one of the first UCI C1 promoters to step up and accept Georgia Gould’s call to pay top finishing women the same as the men at international races. Last week, the Cincinnati Festival’s Saturday race announced that it too was increasing its women’s purse.

The Bio-Wheels/United Dairy Farmers Harbin Park International and Java Johnny’s/ Lionhearts International will pay women according to what has come to be known as the Gould Formula – equal prizes for the top five men and women. The formula was first publicized in December 2007 when Georgia Gould, the winner of the UCI’s 2007 Pan American Continental Championships mountain bike race, circulated a small petition to the UCI that got a big response, not all of it good. “We, the undersigned,” said the petition, “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 will carry out its activities in compliance with the principles of: a) equality between all the members and all the athletes, license-holders and officials, without racial, political, religious, or other discrimination.” We ask the UCI to honor its commitment to equality.”

As Harbin Park is a C1 race, the difference between the UCI’s mandated prize list for women and what will actually be paid is significant. Still, promoter Mitch Graham thinks it is worth it. “I have to give credit to Myles Romanow. He did the equal prize money at his Southhampton races last year and it raised my eyebrow. Late in the season I read Georgia’s petition on equal pay for top five and it simply made sense, a perfect fit for Harbin Park for ’08. Danica Patrick is the biggest star in Indy Car racing, Venus and Serena Williams are two of the most recognizable tennis players in the world, and Katie and Georgia are two of the biggest draws as far as attracting amateur racers to American cyclocross races. There’s a real, discernable value to a promoter when athletes like this participate. ”

Katie Compton obviously agrees with Graham, but adds one more thought, “It’s also up to us to respond when a promoter supports us. If we, as women, don’t support the races that support us, what incentive will promoters have to continue paying us more?”

Returning to the baseball analogy – for a team to win, it takes more than one player to step up to the plate.