Speaking at a pre-race press conference here in Long Beach, California, AEG vice and race president, Kristin Klein said the collective decision was a reflection of modern times.
The 17-19 May women’s tour totals 301.5km and will coincide with the final three stages of the 13-19 May men’s race, covering Elk Grove, South Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. The whole prize pool for the three-days is $104,585AUD.
The Tour of California is among a growing number of races closing the gap on gender parity. The South Australian government in January announced it would award equal prize money at its Santos Women’s Tour. Sir Gary Verity and Welcome to Yorkshire have done so at the Tour de Yorkshire since 2016, while the Tour of Britain has more than doubled its women’s prize pool to match this season.
“The [women’s] race will feature 15 of the best teams in the world and we’re very proud one of them will be the USA Cycling team. We are also proud to once again be leading by example, by awarding equal prize money to all of our men’s and women’s finishers including every jersey winner and cyclist standing on the respective podiums,” Klein said.
“And continuing with this theme of creating new traditions at the Amgen Tour of California, we have decided this year that we are eliminating the customary podium hostesses and the conventional winner’s kiss.”
Cycling’s podium girls debate has been thrown sharply back into the spotlight this year, in the wake of moves from other international sports responding to global #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, which have essentially denounced workplace sexism and promoted women’s rights and equal opportunity.
“We’ll continue to have our stage management team involved in making sure everything goes smoothly up there, as well as all of our partners that are involved with the overall ceremony. There are not going to be many changes per se, except for there won’t be the podium hostesses,” Klein later said.
The WorldTour industry remains at odds over the presence of podium girls, with major stakeholders, riders and press divided on whether the presence of glamorous hostesses should remain as a cycling tradition, or be retired.
RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni in February dismissed the motion as a “temporary trend” and plainly stated the Giro d’Italia and other events in his portfolio would keep them.
Major shareholder ASO, which runs the Tour de France and assists with the organisation of the Tour of California, is yet to publicly weigh-in.
“I think it’s been something people have been talking about for years. This year, it felt like it was the right time to actually make that decision,” Klein added.
“Races can do of course what they want to do. At AEG, we’ve been supporting women’s racing since 2008 and I think there has been an increase in overall support for women’s cycling.
“I feel like AEG, with the Amgen Tour of California, we’re always at the front end of trying to do the right thing and make these decisions. Hopefully everyone will continue to follow, and hopefully, we’ll continue to be a leader.”