Equal Payout at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic

Emily Schaldach, Kaylee Blevins, and a group of local riders from Durango challenged the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic to equalize the payout between men and women in the road race. This debate has been going on for over a decade and numerous women have reached out to the organization to change the payout. We took a new approach and rallied a large group of people that the director would have a harder time saying no to. It took lots of women, men, local organizations, and even one company offering to pay the difference. We sure did do it though — this year the race paid out an equal amount of money to the men and women as they crossed the line after the historic 50 mile race against the train from Durango to Silverton, CO.

(If you’re looking for the gritty details, check this LINK from the Durango Herald article)

Starting a race is scary. Starting a race and already knowing your undervalued makes the ol’ stomach pit even deeper. Cycling is men’s sport – we are reminded of that with unequal payout, lack of representation, and chamois that simply don’t fit well. The step-through bike frames and pink clothing remind us we are not here to race, instead to look good and clean and sweet on a bike.

In this “men’s sport”, the kid’s development program in Durango had more girls than boys out there shredding this year. Just this weekend, American women won all three races at the World Cup in The Czech Republic. We train damn hard, put up with the degrading comments on group rides, and keep showing up. We are here. We are all just hoping to be recognized, seen, and acknowledged.


The Iron Horse Mountain Bike race goes through downtown and into a bar, taking beer hand-ups is just about mandatory.

The Iron Horse Mountain Bike race goes through downtown and into a bar, taking beer hand-ups is just about mandatory.

Race organizers have a choice. It’s easy to logic their way out of equal payout. There are fewer women, we don’t typically race as fast, and our entries don’t bring in the same amount of money. But, values. Let’s honor and respect the women and girls who show up and who push through this male-dominated sport to find their own freedom and happiness on a bike. Everyone deserves joy, representation, inspiration, and to be compensated equally for putting in incredible effort and dedication. We will keep showing up and keep bringing more people with us. If you have the power to tell us that we are equal or that we are valued in this sport, step up and equalize that payout. The women will thank you, you can ignore the men who complain about losing a snippet of their privilege, and the young girls around you will hopefully only know a sport where they are taken seriously and not put on the back row from the very beginning.

Ruth Holcomb, Katja Freeburn and Hannah Bingham filled the podium on Sunday for the mountain bike race.

Ruth Holcomb, Katja Freeburn and Hannah Bingham filled the podium on Sunday for the mountain bike race.

After more than a decade of numerous women contacting the Iron Horse, we have finally been able to level the payout in the road race. It took rallying a group of women and men in a strong community effort to make the change.

I’m thrilled that after a decade of women reaching out that the payout was finally changed. I’m certainly thankful for the men who stepped up to help us. At the same time, I can’t wait for the day when it doesn’t take men stepping up to make other men listen.

Sarah Sturm won the Women’s Road Race — taking home equal payout for the first time in the race’s history.

Sarah Sturm won the Women’s Road Race — taking home equal payout for the first time in the race’s history.

It doesn’t take much – just be nice, respectful, and treat others the way you’d like the be treated. Be kind and encouraging and trust that we can and will do things that are challenging. It means a lot when men are supportive without being degrading and honor that we have skills, and also deserve the joy and sense of freedom that draws all of us to the cycling world. So, here’s an enthusiastic cheers to big smiles for feeling valued, and another cheers to pushing for equality, and a third for continuing to hold our ground in this “men’s sport” – boobs and all.   


Kristen LeganComment