By Imelda March, Daily Peloton
The Women’s Cycling Association (WCA) was created to fill a void in the cycling industry – a place where professional women cyclists can realize a career path with recognition, financial security and advancement in the sport worldwide. The Daily Peloton recently spoke with WCA president—Robin Farina—and below is our exchange.
Daily Peloton: What did you want to accomplish by attending the 2013 USAC Summit? Can you give us a summary of what developments came out of the meeting?
Robin Farina: We were there to listen, learn and participate. Specifically, the meeting was comprised of National Racing Calendar (NRC), the National Criterium Calendar (NCC), race promoters, USA Cycling staff and professional and elite team owners/directors.
In 2014, the women will be able to enjoy racing in the southern part of the country because three set of races are anchored in the month of April. Starting with the Sunny King Criterium (April 5), followed by the Charlotte-Belmont Omnium (April 12-13) and culminating with the Winston-Salem Classic Criterium (April 18). The NCC continues with other races around the country.
In addition to the Winston Salem Classic, there are plans to host a UCI road race for women in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Details and plans for this event will be announced soon.
Other discussions surrounded the entire membership and learning that 13% are women. Of that 50% of the women who purchase a racing license do not renew the following year. This is a major concern for USA Cycling and the WCA feels that we could be of help in finding out why the renewal rate is not higher.
We have witnessed that there is interest in women wanting to ride their bikes and later commit to racing. For example, in Charlotte, North Carolina a number of women hosted a Monday Night ride that grew from having mere four women participants to 20+ women. From that example, we learned that there is racing interest, and this idea was replicated in several other cities.
One of the big goals of the WCA is to have promoters understand that beginner riders must have their own races. These women will not return to a race should they get demoralized by racing with women who have more advance racing experience than them. Further we want to implement an ambassadorship program across the country with the help of professional riders who can provide guidance to new women racers.
Another issue we discussed is the need to reach out to other organizations to help grow the women rider pool. Among those organizations is the League of American Bicyclists because they have a program called Women Bike. We want to work together with them in forming communities of women cyclists that perhaps will become interested in racing.
Salary Data and Professional Teams
DP: In late summer, you circulated a salary survey and requested that your audience share their own salary information — do you know when the results of the data collected will be shared?
RF: The results are being compiled and the data will be shared when Beth Newell gets back from her racing travels. We were fortunate to receive a good response rate and are hopeful that the information will provide a financial picture of the women’s racing remuneration system.
One of the things that promoters fail to understand is that women racers factor in prize money as part of their compensation. As a result, the prize distribution makes or breaks the thinking of “go/no go” to a certain race. Because of this, then, women participation in races that do not support prize money parity has begun to dwindle.
The big issue we have ahead of us is defining “what is a professional woman racer”. The UCI and USA Cycling define a professional woman racer as one who races for the registered UCI teams. In the U.S. that means Team Tibco/To the Top, Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, Exergy TWENTY16 and Specialized-lululemon are considered professional women’s racing teams. The other women who may hold a category 1 or 2 license and race for non-UCI registered teams are considered Elite teams. This is regardless if such female is paid a salary or not. As a result of all this, there is no real definition in the books.
DP: Are you aware that there is a Women’s Cycling Association of Arizona? How are you different?
RF: I have not heard of them and do no know much about them. I do know that they are not part of our organization. However, we aim to work with other groups in hopes of working toward a common cause – to create the opportunity for professional women cyclists to have a career path.
We do plan to reach out to them in the future.
DP: Why is it so hard for road event promoters to embrace purse parity in the distribution of prizes? In cyclocross, it seems more of a common occurrence but not on the road. Why?
RF: The race promoters have been embracing it but it’s also been a push by the women racers and the WCA. Many of the promoters receive “X” monies from sponsors and then they need to figure out how to distribute the use of the money.
Both the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic and the Tulsa Tough are examples of promoters who have embraced offering prize parity; however, many other promoters are hesitant to get on board.
We feel that if the WCA can show growth in participation then it gets easier for the promoters to reinvest podium purse parity for races across the nation. This said, we have urged promoters to invest in streaming races live on the Internet in order to reach a larger audience and get others excited about bicycle racing.
DP: The Merco Credit Union Cycling Classic (Merced, California) will provide an equal prize purse for women and men and increased media exposure for the women through live streaming for the February, 2014 race. Have any other promoters come forward issuing the same promise?
RF: Tulsa Tough, Air Force Classic, Tour de Gila (possibility of a UCI women race in 2014), Dana Point Grand Prix, Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic, Winston Salem Cycling Classic, Cascade Cycling Classic, Tour de Park City (to be held the weekend before the Tour of Utah) are races that have come forward to offer more support and prize parity to women professional bicycle racers. Additionally, they have committed to getting more media involved covering their events.
DP: Why should women join your organization? And what are the benefits?
RF: We currently have 200 members and are growing quickly. The benefits include voting rights for women who hold racing licenses and quarterly newsletters. As the organization grows we hope to provide: mentorship programs, rider handbook, media training, rider development support systems and a membership banquet.
As we speak we are in the process of planning a kit design contest. We will be seeking out designs for the jersey, shorts, socks, and other WCA apparel and goodies.
Additionally, we will be accepting men members as support systems; however, they will not be voting members.
Tour Inclusion, Series Award, UCI and Digital Presence
DP: The director of the Vuelta a España reported that there will not be a Vuelta a España Femenina in the short term. Any thoughts or observations? He stated that this has never been done.
RF: That is the type of mentality we would like to change. We feel that the organizers need to revisit their racing model as we feel that a women’s event could be held side by side with that event.
DP: Have you spoken to the Australian Tracey Gaudry – the newly appointed Vice President of UCI — about your organization?
RF: We have sent her a message on behalf of the WCA; additionally, former professional racer Anne Samplonius knows her and she is also reaching out to her on our behalf.
Our hope is to be part of the UCI women’s commission; however, these are appointed positions so we want to work with her as she puts together a plan for women racing on a global scale.
DP: The 2014, UCI Road World Cup will award with jerseys to sprinters, climbers and young riders. Are you aware of this or are proposing that similar honors be granted to riders of the NRC/NCC?
RF: The Prestige Series, which has been around for the last 10 years, wants to be reinvigorated for 2014 and details will be forthcoming on how the series will work and information on prizing will become available.
Both the NRC and NCC are different beasts and they are not necessarily a series. They are individual race promoters that come together to be part of the national event. In 2014, the events have been paired down to 18 to deliver quality rather than quantity.
We would love to see money as part of winning the NRC or NCC. The USA Cycling answer to that is that a sponsor must be sought to support the program in that way.
Further, the Prestige Series already awards jerseys to sprinters, young riders and climbers.
DP: What digital/social media channels do the WCA participate in?
RF: We are active on Twitter, Facebook and our own website.
Additionally, we will be opening accounts on Instagram, Vine and possibly LinkedIn.
Among our plans for 2014 is to create several booklets to address media training, code of conduct, clinics, junior racing and our ambassador program.
The WCA is kicking off their inaugural “Join the Ride” membership drive in high gear as they team up with the US Bicycling Hall of Fame (USBOF) to host the “Establishing Equity in Women’s Professional Cycling” Forum on Saturday, November 16, 2013 from 9:00 a.m.–Noon at the US Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis, California. The forum and “Join the Ride” membership drive are part of a weekend of festivities to celebrate the 2013 US Bicycling Hall of Fame Inductees, and are free and open to the public. Forum attendees will be able to purchase WCA memberships on site, or they can visit the WCA website to “Join the Ride”. After the Forum event, attendees may join the women and men of the USBHOF and WCA in for a casual 30 mile bike ride.
Editor: It occurred to me that would-be donors would want to learn about the legitimacy of the organization, so I visited the IRS and GuideStar websites and could not find a listing. As a follow up I sent the question via email to Robin Farina and Donna Feazell, PR director, and below is the response.
DP: Is your organization registered as a 501(c)(3) with the IRS? Have you filed and obtain a provisional permit?
Donna Feazell: The law firm the WCA is working with has recommended that they apply for status as a 501c6 organization rather than a 501c3 since they are a professional trade organization. The organization is in the process of making that application now.
Editor: Donations to entities with a 501(c)6 are NOT tax deductible.
About the author: An experienced racer, Imelda March lives in Chicago and is a member of Team Kenda. She is a frequent contributor to The Daily Peloton Cycling News team, reporting on women’s cycling news and general peloton ramblings. She also holds an MBA, is a marketing strategy expert, and is a social media team member/contributor to the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association. Follow me at @hcram1.