Colorado Bike Race Offers Equal Prize Money To Men And Women

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Wheat Ridge Criterium Bike Race
Competitors race in the 2015 Wheat Ridge Criterium.

A major Colorado bike race is trying to even the playing field when it comes to prize money.

This year, the Ridge at 38 Criterium will offer equal purses to male and female competitors. The move comes at a time when members of the U.S. women's soccer team have filed a wage discrimination lawsuit. Female players on that team are paid about a quarter of what the men earn.

The race takes place on a 1.15 mile course in downtown Wheat Ridge, a suburb west of Denver.

Britta Fisher of Localworks is organizing the race. She spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

Fisher on decision to offer equal prize money to men and women:

I think that for women and men, it's the same cost to register, it's the same cost to train, they're training just as hard, they're cycling just as hard. From an event standpoint, the outcome of a really exciting race is the same and so therefore it makes a lot of sense to have equal prizes.

Fisher on critics who say more men compete and therefore deserve more prize money:

I think whenever you're on the cutting edge of something, you take a leap and so we worked with our sponsors and we worked with our racers and we said we're going to take the leap this year. And we think this is where cycling is going and we want to be at the cutting edge. And while we're only one of a couple races that has an equal purse split, there are more races this year than ever having equal prizes in the top two categories, so it's a trend.

Fisher on Billie Jean King's 1973 tennis match that led to equal pay in tennis:

The Battle of the Sexes with Bobby Riggs was really a turning point for tennis and women's sports. It was: 'Yes, women can compete on an even playing field with the men and they should be rewarded similarly for exciting tennis and for exciting other sports like soccer and cycling.'

On women in this year's Ridge at 38 Criterium:

Registrations are up for women. We expect a marquis year and we'd love to see more women racing. We have over 3,000 licensed cyclists here in the state of Colorado. It's a great place for racing and we'd love to see more women feel that it's worth their time, their energy and their competition to be a part of it.