Landmark announcement for female cycling in South Africa
There has been a lot of focus on the prize money offered to female athletes since Ariane Lüthi boycotted the opening event of the 2017 National Mountain Bike Series. Since then, over the past 16 months, we’ve seen corporates stepping up to the mark by offering equal prize money in the male and female categories. But is it enough?
As recent as a week ago a local events organiser, in partnership with a well-known international accounting firm announced the prize money for their 2018 event: Male Open 1st: R10 000 and Female Open 1st: R8 000.
In South Africa, professional cycling, and sport in general, is suffering due to a lack of sponsorship and support. We have athletes with the ability and talent, but few get the support needed to reach the top. Further detrimental to the industry is the fact that organisers and sponsors still offer more prize money to male competitors.
In order to be competition ready, female riders train as hard and spend the equal amount of money on their bicycles, apparel and nutrition. They pay the same entry fee for events, cover the same distances and work just as hard as their male counterparts. So why on earth would it even cross an organiser’s mind to offer the ladies less prize money?
The latest addition to the events calendar has made their position clear; with a stronger ladies’ pro-field, Bezhoek Extreme will offer a bigger purse in the ladies’ category for the 2018 inaugural event. This world first in a mixed gender sports event will hopefully set the precedent for future sporting events across the board.
The prize offering has been made possible by Navworld, a Bezhoek Partner since inception with a keen interest in cycling. CEO of Navworld, Roan Rossouw says, “We’ve noticed the keen interest as well as the stronger pro-ladies field and want to use this as an opportunity to celebrate participation and amplify the awareness of female participation in cycling”.
“Female participant at mountain biking events make up about 25% of the total entries and it drops to as low as 10% in the Elite categories. Just because there are fewer ladies that ride professionally doesn’t mean the competition is less and it certainly doesn’t mean they should have to compete for less prize money”
The Bezhoek Extreme is a first of its kind Mountain Bike Festival that will take place on the Bezuidenhoutshoek Nature reserve just outside of Middelburg in Mpumalanga.
“We successfully hosted the Bezhoek Extreme Trail run on the 25th of November 2017 and we are extremely excited about the inaugural MTB Festival that will take place from the 1st to the 3rd of June 2018” says Sid Sidersky, co-owner of the Bezuidenhoutshoek Private Nature reserve. “Mpumalanga is mountain biking country but events like the Sabie and Barberton Classics have taken a backseat to events hosted in other provinces. Close to 50% of the events on the BikeHub calendar are hosted in the Western Cape and we really don’t have a signature event in close proximity to Gauteng”
The Bezhoek Extreme aims to change that. It is hosted right on Pretoria’s doorstep, with only a 90-minute drive and a Vida e Café conveniently located en route. Coupled with the privilege of experiencing the beauty and magic of the Olifants River Valley, cyclists are also part of the efforts to rehabilitate and help preserve one of the most strained water catchment areas in South Africa.
Visit www.bezhoekextreme.co.za to find out more.