charity · cycling

Why are the Centurion women’s series races 25km?

Spring is fast approaching (in my mind at least)! We celebrated Henrik’s Day yesterday, halfway through winter, and so we’re on the home stretch to race season. Time to spend some time on the rollers and check out the ride/race season ahead.

Friends send me messages asking if I’m keen/willing to do this event or that race, family schedules are checked, and plans are made.

Last night I got a message from a friend scheming about the Centurion series. We’d done the Gran Fondo together last year and had a fun time. The Centurion series is similar in spirit–let the racers, race and let the riders ride–fast paced but more fun than serious road race. And given the hills, that suits me fine.

Here’s the promotional blurb:

We’re combining the mass-participation buzz of a big-city marathon with the epic feel of riding in a stage of the Tour de France. If you want to race, you can race. If you’d rather ride, you can ride.  Centurion Cycling events feature:

  • Epic courses in unique venues

  • Standardized format and set distances of 25 miles, 50 miles and 100 miles

  • High quality of production, including a coordinated mass start so racers can race and riders can ride, chip timing, controlled traffic throughout and full support

  • Enhanced atmosphere of an expo village

  • Individual and team competition and camaraderie

Centurion Cycling welcomes racers, competitive cyclists, tri-athletes in training, recreational riders and families/friends to all embrace this new challenge and be a Centurion!

In the end the date won’t work. There’s a good chance I’ll be at a conference in Madrid. But while  on the website I noticed that they were launching a women’s series. I thought that might a fun event for me and some of my women cyclist friends.While I’m not a huge of cupcake rides, I like riding with other women. There isn’t much going on here in women’s cycling, but a Centurion race for women? Wow, that could be fun.

Except it’s not 100 km. It’s not a century. The women’s ride is 25 km.

Last I checked that isn’t a century in any known system of measurement!

And it’s PINK! Screaming pink! A fundraiser for breast cancer research. So pink, and breasts, and one quarter the distance of the standard Centurion rides. Really!

This is a problem. In my academic talk I’ve been giving here and there about women and cycling I note that distances often vary drastically between men’s and women’s races. There’s no good reason why. Yes, some women are slower than some men. Some women are faster than some men too. But on average women are slower. So maybe the volunteers want to pack up and go home once the men’s race is over. Fine. But that gap might be 100 km for men and 80 km for women, not 25 km for women.

And 100 km isn’t even that far.

Sometimes the difference is even worse. See Neil Browne, a sports journalist, who writes about the gap between men’s and women’s cycling events.

“The upcoming Atlanta 100K race dramatically showcases both of these inequalities. The women’s event, which is NRC categorized, is a 10-kilometer race with a $2,000 pay-out. The men’s non-NRC race is 100 kilometers and pays $10,000. The Atlanta 100K race offers a dramatically shorter race for the women.”

It’s not just a difference in distance. A 10 km race is a different kind of race than a 100 km race. Different sorts of cyclists will win.

Going back to the women’s Centurion I’m pretty sure the 25 km event won’t lose the hills and for me a 100 km ride that includes hills is different than a 25 km event with those same hills.

And I’m not going to want to put my bike on the back of my car, drive two hours each way, for a ride/race that will be over in well under an hour. Grrr.

[UPDATE: Looks like all distances are in miles. Makes sense for the century as 100 miles is what people usually mean when they say a “century” ride. The women’s ride must be 25 miles, not 25 km, as they estimate the finishing times between 1 and 2 hours. But still the gap remains, it’s now a gap between 25 miles and 100 miles, not 25 and 100 km.]

I’m not opposed to charity rides but it’s not clear to me why the women’s event is a charity event and the open event isn’t. Too many stereotypes all in one place for me.

Here’s the Centurion women’s series jerseys:

Pedal for pink bike jerseys

12 thoughts on “Why are the Centurion women’s series races 25km?

  1. Actually, it’s a bit worse than you present it.
    The women’s ride is 25 kilometers. (at least one of the two offered is; the Blue Mountain ride may be 25 miles, I can’t tell.)
    The Main event rides are all measured in MILES!

  2. It seemed to me that the women’s event for Blue Mountain was 25miles, whereas the other events are 25km.

  3. As a female cyclist who races, this is an endless source of frustration. I’ve had teammates good enough to go pro (and do well as a pro), but decided that their day job was a better option. To have someone who is naturally gifted enough to compete at the highest level decide that it’s just not worth it to live below the poverty level, when many of the men make a lot more money, is just sad.

  4. Argh! In your copious free time, I hope you will write a crisply-worded email to the promoters about this cr*p. I will try to do the same, and I encourage everyone who reads this blog to do so. Promoters won’t do anything about this ridiculous inequality until they see the threat to their wallets. Thanks for focusing the spotlight on this pretty pervasive problem.

    1. What I’ve found, at least in my local racing scene, is that speaking up about the inequality means the promoters then cancel all future women’s events because the women complain too much. I wish I was kidding.

      1. Ack. I did get a reply from the organizers. I posted a link to the blog post on their Facebook page. It’s all good stuff about wanting to encourage women beginners, and that’s fine, but they don’t seem to get the point. I know that the other race isn’t a men’s race, it’s mixed. Why isn’t the shorter distance mixed too? Or, better yet, from my point of view, have two long distance and two short distance, one of each kind for men and for women.

  5. I just applied for my very first bike racing license. I will be BEYOND ticked off if I get shuffled toward shorter distances or “easier” races because I’m a woman. Novice – yes, of course. This is going to be a learning experience to say the least! Over 40 – well, yeah, I know I’m not going to beat the 20-year-olds, at least not in a sprint (I bet my endurance is up there, though). But the mere fact I’ve got two X chromosomes and a set of “innie” variety genitalia should NOT be the salient factor and I will not be quiet about it.

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