"If prize funds were different based on skin colour or sexual orientation, there would be riots," writes 2014 British Cyclocross champion Helen Wyman

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Words by Rob McCallum

Cyclocross rider Helen Wyman has caused a stir on social media over the last few days with a blog post in which she says: “It feels like it’s 1950.” The post concerns huge gender disparities in pay at cyclocross races, including UCI World Cup events.

In a post on her personal blog, Wyman highlights that the total prize fund for a men’s elite World Cup race is €42,500 (£33,300), in comparison to the women’s total of only €7,400 (£5,800). This means that the women’s prizes are around 17 per cent of the men’s.

Wyman said: “If the minimum salary in a country was lower for women, there would be riots.  If prize funds were different based on skin colour or sexual orientation, there would be riots.  We don’t want to riot, we want to race. We just want equality.”

Wyman says that at the recent World Cup event in Namur, Belgium, in December, women racers were not even allowed to use the “elite” car park reserved for leading competitors.

At the same event, riders 37 through to 50 in the men’s race were lapped by those on the lead lap, yet were paid €300 each. Only the top ten female finishers earned more, and those finishing outside the top 25 earned nothing at all.

According to the post, one counter argument has been that the men race for longer than the women. Wyman said: “We would be happy to race for one hour… to secure equal prize money [but] the rules say we can’t. I repeat. I’d be happy to race for an hour.” Wyman continued separately on the blog: “We train just as hard, and for as many hours as the men.”

Prize fund equality has become an increasingly contentious topic in recent months. In October the UK Minister for Sport, Helen Grant, criticised the gender pay gap across a range of sports. In the same month, Lizzie Armistead called a for a minimum wage for women in cycling.

This isn’t the first time Wyman has caused a stir on her blog. In December, she wrote an open letter to future cyclocross stars that aimed to inspire riders to pursue a career in the sport.

Helen Wyman defends her title at the Cyclocross National Championships in Abergavenny this weekend, 10-11 January.

  • Riggah

    Helen Wyman is quoted as saying “We just want equality.” But this is nonsense because she wants the same prize money as the men without the ‘inconvenience’ of having to compete against men. So ironically she is being very discriminatory about how she wants ‘equality’ applied to her sport. But of course, the precedent has already been set in tennis where they have the ridiculously sexist situation of the women earning the same prize money as the men for playing less tennis AND can in fact potentially win more than the men overall as they are less fatigued and have more time to compete in doubles competitions. So forgive me for being highly sceptical of anyone who demands ‘equality’ on their terms.

  • Roger

    Of course there are differences. And it is because there are different categories that the pay and other conditions aren’t the same for all riders. Riggah’s whole point is, I think, that if the women want the same conditions as the elite men, they should race against them. The same would apply to U23s etc. if they felt they were getting a bad deal. So yes, the logical consequence is one massive race for all those riders who demand absolute equality.

  • Chris Garrison

    By your logic, there should just be one massive race of all ages. Perhaps you aren’t familiar with the physiological differences between not just men and women, but people of different ages. It’s for these reasons that separate categories exist.

  • Riggah

    Why is there a separate women’s event at all? As usual, this is not about ‘equality’ but demanding special privileges. The better prize money is there, you just have to compete against the men for it.

  • Lee Wingate

    Provided the women ride the same distance the men then in theory there shouldn’t be a difference.

    Until then…. Pro-rata the prize fund accordingly.