What is The Colorado Classic?
The Colorado Classic is a four-day (August 22-25, 2019) stage race through Colorado for professional women cyclists. It’s the only women’s stand-alone stage race in the Western Hemisphere on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) calendar.
The UCI gave the Colorado Classic as a 2.1 designation which means teams can use this race as a 2020 Olympic Games qualifier. The only other US race with this designation is the Amgen Tour of California, which also includes men’s racing. For the Colorado Classic to earn this designation its first year as a women’s-only race is a big deal.
Another unique quality of the Colorado Classic is their free daily live streaming of each race. You’ll be hard-pressed to find live coverage of a women’s professional bike race, let alone one that is entirely free.
Most professional races either require a paid subscription to view live racing footage or, like the Amgen Tour of California, they’ll play live recordings of the men’s field and “highlight” the women’s field. The highlights are typically less than an hour and rarely advertised.
If you can’t make it to the races in-person, I insist you tune in online at 303Cycling’s website or Colorado Classic’s website.
Why should you care about the Colorado Classic?
If you’re not a cyclist or have a friend or family member who is, you may not think it’ll be “fun” or entertaining to watch. Truth be told, the only sport that I will watch is cycling, so I get it. With the #metoo movement, with the derisive politics in our country, with the women’s soccer team annihilating their components and still not getting paid equally to the non-women’s team, the Colorado Classic is more than just a bike race.
We’ve come to a point in society where we can no longer accept the status quo. This is about empowering girls and women to strive for more, to take what’s theirs, to be bigger and do whatever the hell they want. The saying goes, “it’s a man’s world” and you don’t have to look past your handlebars to see proof of that.
Powerful women are changing that as I type this. It takes a village and having male allies helps. We’re stronger when we work together and support those working to make a difference regardless (or because) of your identity.
I hope that the Colorado Classic becomes a movement in women’s cycling – both at the professional and amateur level.
Current issues in the pro women’s cycling field
Professional women cyclists don’t make squat for money
At least half of professional women cyclists work a part-time job while racing full-time. That’s because they’re paid so little, if at all. The WorldTeams pay their racers a salary, but it’s hardly above poverty line. Up until 2018, there was no minimum salary required for professional women’s teams. The Cyclists’ Alliance brought demands to the UCI and in 2020 women in WorldTeams (only five qualified) will earn a minimum salary of $17,000.
Guess how much an hour that is?
This had to be instituted. And it doesn’t even start until next year. This means that before this ruling, women’s WorldTeams didn’t have to pay racers anything. Also, bear in mind that this is only for WorldTeams. Supposedly, the minimum salary will continue to increase each year until 2023 rounding out at $34,000.
WorldTour men make $42,246 minimum right now. I think it’s safe to assume travel expenses, food, massages, etc. are taken care of for them as well. Especially because the Colorado Classic, for example, hosted men in hotels when they offered a co-ed race while women had to find guest housing.
Coverage of live women’s racing events is dismal
According to Cycling News in 2018, ”ASO run a number of high-profile women’s races, including Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, La Course and the Madrid Challenge, as well as working alongside Welcome to Yorkshire for the Women’s Tour de Yorkshire. While La Course and the Tour de Yorkshire receive extensive live broadcast (though Yorkshire is restricted to British television), the Ardennes races and Madrid receive minimal coverage on television.”
Then in May 2019, ASO (Amaury Sports Organization) pulled coverage of the “women’s Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège races that it promotes from pro racing’s top circuit rather than try to meet minimum TV-coverage requirements.” According to Outside Magazine, “This year  the requirement was a video recap and online information in French and English. For 2020, it will increase to at least 45 minutes of live coverage.”
This was too much for ASO.
While most organizations aren’t as equipped and rich as ASO, they still make it work. This begs the question: is it actually a financial pain to broadcast Women’s WorldTour Races or is it simply because companies like ASO don’t give a shit?
Trek and Voxwen came together this year to finally show some morsel of the Giro Rosa – the longest stage race (10 stages) in the women’s tour. They provided an hour-long highlight and race analysis every day. It was great.
Before that, I relied on tweets and final results.
The Amgen Tour of California showed a race recap of the women’s race at 10:00 PM PST while broadcasting the men’s race live on NBCSN, Eurosport, and other broadcasters worldwide.
Women’s racing is seen as “less-than” men’s
Distances cut short
Let’s continue to pick on the Amgen Tour of California. The men raced seven stages. The women raced three.
The men’s stage 5 coincides with the women’s stage 1. The men raced 136 miles. The women raced 60 miles.
The men’s stage 6 raced 79.2 miles while the women’s stage 2 raced 46 miles.
Finally, the men’s stage 7 raced 78.3 miles and surprisingly the women race the same mileage on that day. Mind you, the men raced a total of 777.6 miles and the women raced 176.9 miles.
Sabrina Brennan, San Mateo County Harbor District president, argued that the Amgen Tour of California “violates the Unruh Civil Rights Act by having an unequal number of race days for men and women” and has asked the State Department of Transportation to refuse public highway permits in 2020.
When Brennan faced push-back, she asked, ‘if the agency would “permit a race with seven days for white men and three days for black men.”’ It’s a thought-provoking question because we see sexism running rampant not just in cycling, but everywhere.
This isn’t just a professional women’s cycling problem; we see this in amateur women’s bike racing too. Race Directors shorten women’s distances, durations, and combines categories. And when you bring attention to the blatant sexism, you’re threatened and silenced.
Fast women told to stop
Women’s bike racing is seen as less-than. We saw this at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad when Nicole Hanselmann (Bigla) caught the men’s field, forcing officials to neutralise the women’s race. The men weren’t told to pull over. Hanselmann was stopped and the women’s field caught up to her. They sat around in the rain giving the men enough distance again before continuing. ESPN summarizes this issue appropriately: “Making the women stop riding because they might interfere with the men’s race is simply symptomatic of a sport that has never considered women on an equal playing field to the men.”
Prize purses are laughably small
Last year at the Colorado Classic, the men’s prize purse was $70,000 and the women’s was $30,000.
In 2017, the Cascade Cycling Classic caught major fire for their incredibly unequal prize purse. The men’s payouts were $23,979 while the women’s were a measly $8,025.
This year’s Tour of Flanders saw the women’s winner, Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu) received €1,265 for her victory while the men’s winner, Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) received €20,000.
Sexual assault runs rampant in women’s professional racing
Women from the WorldTour teams to the second-tier level of professional women’s cycling have experienced some form of abuse as a professional cyclist and it’s not often talked about out of fear of being kicked off a team. The Outer Line spoke to professional women cyclists in anonymity and uncovered three distinct categories of abuse within the women’s pro peloton: 1. Financial manipulation, 2. Psychological control, 3. Physical abuse.
A Junior racer was interviewed for a Rouleur magazine story that details the sexual assault enacted by her team’s soigneur during a post-race massage.
Missy Erickson came forward about the three years of sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse she endured as a Junior racer.
The list goes on.
How you can help make this a movement: Engage
CyclingTips wrote a great article about generating more women’s cycling coverage. They listed four things you can do:
Follow teams, sites, organizations, and people who post about women’s cycling. You can start with 303Endurance. They’ll be posting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram about the Colorado Classic throughout the day on each stage.
The Colorado Classic listed the 2019 Teams and linked to their social media accounts. Follow the teams, their racers, and support them by comments, likes, and shares.
When a link is posted, click on it. This is tracked via social media analytics and Google analytics. It’s one of the best way to assess engagement as opposed to the number of ‘likes,’ ‘shares,’ and ‘comments.’
Stage 1 – Steamboat Springs – August 22
Where to watch:
Start/Finish Line – Meadows Lot
Oak Creek Sprint
Stage 2 – Avon – August 23
Where to watch:
Start/Finish Line – Nottingham Park
Main Street Road & Benchmark Road
Daybreak Road at Village to Village Trail
Stage 3 – Golden – August 24
Where to watch:
Start/Finish Line – Washington Ave between 12th & 13th
15th & Washington
New Terrain Brewery
Stage 4 – Denver – August 25
Where to watch:
Start/Finish Line – Coors Field – 21st and Blake
The Teams & Racers
ALP Cycles Racing
ALP Cycles Racing is a women’s Road, CX, Track, and MTB race team based in Boulder, Colorado. They augment individual professional coaching with race team techniques and camaraderie. By providing coached training rides and skills sessions along with team races with team race strategy, ALP Cycles Racing is changing the way local race teams train and race.
Amy D. Foundation
The Amy D. Foundation encourages and supports young women through cycling, inspiring the celebration of healthy challenge and empowering the confident pursuit of lofty dreams.
Amy D. Foundation programming builds participation, opportunity, and equality for women in the sport of cycling.
BePink is a professional women’s cycling team based in Italy. It was formed in November 2011 from the initiative of a group of cycling enthusiasts.
The Team competes in elite road bicycle racing events such as the UCI Women’s World Tour. The values of BePink: attention, listening, ethics, responsibility, and passion.
The values of female cycling and the values of women in society.
CANYON//SRAM Racing is a professional women’s cycling team competing in races across the globe. They aim to ride to advance, race to inspire, and break away to challenge.
From the solid foundation of experienced riders to the go-getting attitude of the younger riders, this diverse group of women seem to feed off and inspire each other. With a team motto of ‘better together’ when they are aligned they are part of something special, and even more extraordinary, these women create something special to watch.
They promote women’s professional cycling, they inspire people to ride all around the globe, and they are committed to delivering incredible stories.
Cogeas Mettler Look Pro Cycling
Cogeas Mettler Look Pro Cycling* is a professional women’s cycling team based in Russia, which competes in elite road bicycle racing events such as the UCI Women’s World Tour.
DNA Pro Cycling
The DNA Pro Cycling Team is a women’s squad racing dirt and asphalt. They are a USA Cycling Domestic Elite Team and USA CRITS D1 Team.
Durango-Specialized-IED is a team with Mexican professional cyclists who are on their 4th year as a team. They aim to promote the development of Women’s Cycling in Mexico.
The mission of Fearless Femme Racing is to be an active ambassador for our parent foundation, Pure Energy Velo (501c-3), who strive to mentor, educate, inspire and promote the health, community, environmental and spiritual benefits of cycling on a youth, community and corporate level. In addition, Fearless Femme Racing provides a scholarship and mentor program for dedicated emerging female bicycle racers seeking an opportunity to develop as a cyclist and student.
Femmes participate as active community leaders, organize and promote charitable events, and demonstrate bike safety and healthy lifestyle habits.
Hagens Berman | Supermint Pro Cycling is an American UCI-registered women’s professional cycling team. They raced our third season in 2018 with a roster of talented riders backed by awesome staff and sponsors, a full schedule of racing across North America, and the launch of a new ambassador program to better engage with women across all levels of cycling. Their goal is to make a difference in this sport through meaningful connections with fans and partners…while riding hard and winning races.
Leigh Ann Ganzar
LUX Cycling is an elite under-19 development team aimed to educate and empower the top junior riders in the United States to succeed at the highest levels of competitive cycling and in life.
Point S Auto p/b Nokian Tyres
Point S Auto presented by Nokian Tyres is a Portland, Oregon based women’s professional team and development program with athletes from all over North America.
Sponsored by Gill’s Point S tire & auto service, the program’s mission is to create opportunities, nurture and develop athletes in a positive and professional team environment.
Point S Auto presented by Nokian Tyres is a Portland, Rally Cycling is America’s top ranked continental men’s and women’s program, and one of the only all-North American professional cycling teams in the world.
TWENTY20 is a valued recruitment platform for young athletes heading to college. Many universities are now offering partial and full scholarships to capable female cyclists for their varsity programs. TWENTY20 has successfully developed junior athletes and connected them with colleges as they graduate from high school. The priority for their program is always academics, supporting our athletes in obtaining the best education possible for life after cycling.
Swapit | Agolico Cycling Pro Team is the first Mexican women’s professional cycling team registered in the UCI and one of the two teams in Latin America.
Maria Jose Vargas
TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank
Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank is the longest running professional women’s cycling team in North America. Since 2004, the team’s mission has been to help aspiring female cyclists achieve their dreams of becoming top International competitors. The team has had numerous riders named to Olympic and World Championship squads and has produced several national champions.
US National Team
“The Colorado Classic provides us with a great opportunity to showcase young talent that may one day compete at World Championships or Olympics. Our USA Cycling Collegiate Program is a great avenue for young riders to develop and has produced great champions, Katie Hall is a great example of that. We hope the opportunity to race against a talented international field in a top UCI race will continue to inspire our riders to greatness,” said Jeff Pierce, Director of Elite Athletics, Road and Track for USA Cycling.