It’s been a big week for women’s sport and the row over equal pay. Now Asda have thrown their hat into the ring by announcing they will be sponsoring this year’s Tour de Yorkshire Women’s Race on Saturday 30 April.
We’ve never had equal pay and I’ve never been in a race with so much money before. It’s definitely a big step forward and it’s great that Tour de Yorkshire is setting a precedent
The race, which runs from Otley to Doncaster over a 135km course spanning tough terrain, is in its third year but for the first time ever, the winner will be eligible for a £15,000 prize (the same as her male counterpart) with an overall winner's 'pot' of over £50,000 on offer. This makes the race the most lucrative cycling prize in the world. ITV4 and Eurosport will cover the event in its entirety, really turning up the dial on cycling and in particular, women’s cycle racing.
Today, Asda’s chief executive Andy Clarke announced the sponsorship of this year’s Tour de Yorkshire Women’s race and the news that Asda will be matching the winning prize with that of the men’s. He said: “These women train hard and don’t see the parity of pay they deserve. It’s time women’s sport was put at the forefront and it’s a fantastic way to be a part of it. We have 57 stores in Yorkshire, 10 on the race course itself and our colleagues want to play a part too, just as they have done in previous years.” He admitted there are plans afoot to support the race in other ways, yet to be announced.
Reigning world cycling champion Lizzie Armitstead was in York at today’s event. Born and bred in Otley, where the race begins for the women this year, Lizzie said: “I can’t believe I’m going to have the opportunity to race in my home town, it’s very exciting and slightly surreal but I’m hoping the young women in Otley find it inspiring." She added: “We’ve never had equal pay and I’ve never been in a race with so much money before. It’s definitely a big step forward and it’s great that Tour de Yorkshire is setting a precedent.”
Lizzie explained that it's not about the final prize though: “I don’t cycle for the money, I cycle for the passion – but if I win this race I’ll win more than I would at the world title championships. I’m very grateful – and I’m going to go for it!"
Lizzie was the first British athlete to scoop a medal at London 2012 when she won silver in the road race. She’s delighted that more young women have since taken an interest in her discipline: “I think it’s nice to be a role model for some people – I didn’t have one when I was growing up.”
During last year’s race (below), 1.5 million spectators cheered the cyclists en route around the stunning Yorkshire countryside and its historic towns and villages and this year the numbers are set to soar again with the women’s race attracting a wider audience than ever to the sport.
Fighting for the right for equal pay in sport for women is a row that’s been rumbling on for a few years now. This week the spotlight shone brightly on the subject when Indian Wells tennis tournament director, Raymond Moore criticised the argument for equal pay in tennis tournaments for men and women. He subsequently resigned.
Christiane Prudhomme, chief executive of the Tour de France, (which still doesn’t have a women’s race), said today: “We need women cyclists and what the Tour de Yorkshire will achieve with this award is a huge step forwards – not just for sport but for society as a whole”.
Best of luck to Lizzie who’ll be competing for the Great Britain Cycling team!
Race timings were announced last week and can be found here: letouryorkshire.com/timings