Passionate people who love what they do- inspire me!
A few years ago, we were host housing for a women’s cycling team during the Redlands Classic. We had a three woman team- Catherine Powers, Meredith Mills, and Cindy V. Catherine was from New York City, Meredith was from Santa Barbara, and Cindy was from Belgium. They met online just months prior to the Redlands Classic. All of them needed a team in order to race in the Redlands Classic. Essentially, they formed a team upon arrival. My job was to offer room and board, transportation, and support. It was a crazy week and I saw first hand what is was like to be a woman cyclist in a multi-day stage race. None of them were paid. All had other jobs to support their love of the sport. They were pursuing their passion which is what I respect the most!
I wrote to Catherine Powers and asked her to fill me in on her pro-race career and the last 7 years of her life.
I raced for two years as a pro with Aaron’s Professional Women’s Cycling Team. I loved it and was able to do some of my best racing as a domestique. The highlights of 2007 included helping my teammate Kat Carroll win Joe Martin, winning a race at Superweek and getting 3rd at the Lancaster Triple Crown race in the spring. It was great to work for some awesome teammates this year — Felicia Gomez and Kat Carroll and Rebecca Larson. We all had a really good time together and were able to work well as a team. For me that was the best thing about racing pro — the team aspect, where we really laid it on the line for each other. It was also a blast to get paid to do something I love. We got to ride awesome Specialized bikes with the new SRAM components and Aaron’s really took care of us, so all we had to do was race.
The average women’s salary? Nothing. Most women race for nothing. A woman in cycling is likely to make about 1/5-1/10 of what a comparable male cyclist would make. The most I ever heard of a woman making as $45,000 but I’m not sure what Kristen Armstrong makes and it could easily be more than that. There are maybe 10-15 women making over $20,000. Most women who do get paid make less than $10,000. I had a good contract last year, but it took a long long time to get to that point and the lack of money in the sport is one of the things that drove me to leave it (or almost leave it). I’m 36 years old and I have no savings and I own nothing but a 1991 Toyota and a lot of bikes. So this fall, I decided to get a “real job” again and have returned to the classroom (I was a teacher in a Brooklyn high school as well as a social worker in New York City homeless services before becoming a cyclist). I am teaching World Geography in Spanish to 7th graders in a dual-language program at Casey Middle School, a public school in Boulder, Colorado. I have also been getting a masters in ESL and bilingual education over the last couple of years and hope to finish that up soon.
I have not quite kicked the cycling addiction, however, and will be racing part-time this year for Aaron’s — filling in where needed. I love my team and am glad I can still be a part of things. We have our team camp at the end of January in California and I’m super excited to meet my new teammates and reconnect with the old ones. Carmen D’Aluisio will be running the team again and she is an excellent director — she’s great with logistics and with strategy as well as with bringing the team together.
The biggest downer for me about women’s cycling is the inequity in terms of media coverage and money (both prize money and sponsorship money/salaries). I have started boycotting the major cycling magazines because it is ridiculous the way they ignore women’s cycling. There were 3 North American women who medaled at worlds this year but Velonews focused on the Italian winner of the men’s race. Every single race with a men’s and a women’s field yields 3-4 times as much coverage of the men’s event as the women’s — regardless of the field size or aggressiveness of the racing. Half the time, the people covering the women’s race don’t even know anything about women’s racing and don’t give an accurate report (with the notable exception of the coverage by Kirsten Robbins for Cyclingnews). The problems with prize money and sponsorship are directly related to this: if a sponsor knows that they’ll get 3-4 times the amount of coverage out of sponsoring a men’s team, why would they sponsor a women’s team? If a promoter knows that a stacked prize list that draws all the top men will get more coverage than a prize list that draws the same caliber of women, he or she will often opt to take money from our purse and put it in the men’s purse. And the result is that the sport loses talented women all the time because very few of us who aren’t supported by husbands or parents can afford to participate at an elite level. I could go on about this all day. My nickname on my team was “That’s Not Fair Bear”.
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