In a swift display of public outcry over prize money disparity, the Central Oregon community stepped up Thursday to support the women riders in the Cascade Cycling Classic.

The prize purse disparity between the pro men and women in this year’s classic, announced by organizers before the race began this week, prompted companies in Bend and others in the community to make up the difference. More than $15,000 was added Thursday to the women’s prize purse, including $5,700 in community donations.

The women’s prize purse will now be the same as what is listed for the men’s through the top 15 positions of the pro races, according to a Thursday news release from the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation.

According to the technical guide for the race, which started Wednesday and runs through Sunday, the total prize purse for the pro men was $23,979, with the overall winner earning $2,951. The total prize purse for the pro women was $8,025, with the overall winner getting $225.

The amounts were based on restrictions placed on the distribution of prize money by the International Cycling Union (UCI), the sport’s governing body. Phone and email attempts by The Bulletin to contact USA Cycling, in an effort to determine the rationale for the inequitable purse minimums, were not immediately returned on Thursday. USA Cycling serves as a liaison to UCI.

The race’s main sponsor, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, announced Thursday that it was adding $5,000 to the women’s prize purse this year and will take steps to balance the prize money next year as well.

“We’re proud to support an event that gives back to the Central Oregon community and promotes athletic achievement and healthy activity,” Regence spokesman Jared Ishkanian wrote in an email to The Bulletin. “Equity has historically been integral to the CCC. We’re disappointed to learn that this is not the case in 2017, and as a result are pledging an additional $5,000 in sponsorship for the women’s purse. We will actively work with race officials to ensure equitable prize money in 2018.”

Bend-based DVA Advertising & Public Relations created a GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/cccwomen, with the goal of raising $15,954 — the original difference between the pro men’s and pro women’s total prize purses. As of 10 p.m. Thursday, DVA had raised $5,915.

“The outpouring of support has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Justin Yax, partner at DVA, in an email to The Bulletin. “In the first 24 hours alone we received more than 70 donations ranging in size from $10 to $1,000. And perhaps more importantly, the community is engaged in an important conversation about equality.”

The Old Mill District donated $1,000 to the campaign, according to DVA.

“So proud to be part of a community that sees a problem and immediately finds a way to fix it,” the Old Mill District’s Facebook page noted.

Prior to the sponsors and the community raising money, there was a limited amount of money set for the prize purses, according to the MBSEF release. Due to the minimum payout regulations, the race organization was unable to split the money that was available equally.

“The men’s and the women’s minimum are two different numbers,” MBSEF director John Schiemer said. “We had actually increased the women’s over the minimum but only to what we could do at that time. Early on when we made the decision to go UCI, we were led to believe by USA Cycling that the prize purse would be very similar to where we were already at. Last year, if you look back at the prize purse, we were equal to the top 15 places for both races.”

For the past six years, the CCC was one of the few major cycling events in the country to offer equal prize money for men and women racers. But when the men’s race became sanctioned this year by the UCI, organizers were handcuffed by UCI rules, which require a minimum prize purse of $23,979 for pro men, according to race director Chad Sperry.

“We went absolutely to the penny, the minimum for the men,” Sperry said. “For the women, we added close to 30 percent more than the minimum. The women’s racing is so important to us here. That’s why we were UCI for the women before the men (in 2016). That’s why we were the first race on the UCI and NRC (National Racing Calendar) to have equal payouts for the podiums for all the competitions.”

Sperry said he has had no contact with the UCI in preparations for the race or during the race, instead working with USA Cycling.

“Nobody talks directly to the UCI,” Sperry said Thursday.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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