British cyclist Lizzy Banks has called on more event organisers to introduce equal prize money, ahead of competing in the Strade Bianche today.
The race on the white roads of Tuscany is one competition which offers a significantly different prize pot. €40,000 will be shared among the men, with €16,000 going to the winner, compared to a total of €10,260 for the women’s version, €2,256 for the winner.
The disparity led to a crowdfunding campaign, which has already surpassed its target.
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Banks was speaking to Eurosport’s Orla Chennaoui for a special programme - ‘International Women’s Day - Women in Sport’ - which featured a panel discussion between the cyclist, England’s former netball head coach Tracey Neville, and former tennis player and pundit Annabel Croft, which will be broadcast to mark the global event on Monday.
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Ahead of linking up for Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling on the dirt roads in Italy, Banks was keen to point out that the prize money issue is not a problem isolated to just today’s event.
"In my sport the prize fund is dictated by the organiser, it’s not dictated by the world governing body, it’s the organiser’s decision how they split the prize pot," she told Eurosport.
"I just don’t understand, are we seven times less valuable than the men’s race? I don’t think so.
I think we put on a great, great show - so why is this happening? It happens time and time again, and we’re really fighting a losing battle here, why wouldn’t you change this?
"It’s such an easy thing to change and this money isn’t going to make a difference to the men in the same way that it would make a difference to the women."
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Banks was referring to a recent event that she had competed in, where she stumbled on a huge difference in the funds awarded to women compared to men.
I got the race manual the night before and I always flick through it to see what the difference in prize money is, just out of interest, because some race organisers are really forward thinking and they’re like, we’re going to make the change now and we’re going to make it equal and then everything else will come. Not so much with this race organiser, the prize fund for the male winner was €16,000 and the prize fund for the female winner was €930.
"I sent a video of this to my friend and my husband and I thought about posting about it on social media but I just didn’t really want to make a wave and I didn’t want to seem negative the night before the race, and I had to focus on the race.
"So, I showed it to my team-mate and she said to me, ‘Hey, you know Lizzy, that’s more than most female professional cyclists earn in a year’.
"That really struck a chord and struck home with me because, why? What’s the reason?"
Eurosport is celebrating International Women’s Day every day from Thursday, March 4 to Monday, March 8. On the day itself, we will have a women’s sport takeover on our social channels and a special show hosted by Orla Chennaoui which will be broadcast at 7pm on Eurosport 1, eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app.
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