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In honor of International Women’s Day, The Big Sugar gravel race in Arkansas will release an additional 100 entries specifically for female cyclists.
The spots will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on Monday, March 16 at 12:00 p.m. CST through the event’s website.
Operated by Life Time, owners of the Dirty Kanza, Big Sugar originally sold out its 1,000 spots in under five minutes when registration opened this past November. After analyzing the initial registrants, organizers saw that female riders comprised just 12 percent of the total entries.
“We were not stoked with that number,” said Kristi Mohn, Life Time’s marketing manager and business development for off-road events. “But I don’t think anyone thought it would sell out in five minutes, either.”
Gabbi Adams, co-director of the event, believed that the speedy sellout put female riders at a disadvantage. In her opinion, female riders often require more time than men when deciding to register for an event.
“Women take a big longer to make sure everything is in place before they sign up for something,” Adams said. “Do they have childcare? Does it fit in their schedule? When you have a four-minute sellout, it’s clear that the women’s numbers will be low.”
After the initial registration, Adams and Mohn sought a way to boost female participation, however they did not know exactly how to accomplish the goal. Sunday’s International Women’s Day offered the opportunity to raise awareness about female participation in cycling.
On Sunday the race announced it would release 100 additional entries to women over its social media accounts. Adams told VeloNews that most of the comments have been from women tagging other women, so she anticipates that the spots will quickly sell out.
As a first year event, the Big Sugar has the opportunity to craft its image favorably to female riders so that, no matter what registration format it uses next year, women will feel motivated to sign up. As a veteran of the Dirty Kanza promotion team, Mohn has valuable insight into how events can do a better job of creating a culture of inclusivity.
“If you see it you can be it,” she said. “By sharing pictures of women at start lines, women volunteering, showing women in all these roles. Then, it will become an organic thing that happens without these initiatives. For the time being, that’s what we have to keep doing.”