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:

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:

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