Mikaela Shiffrin talks gender equality and cycling vs. skiing
August 23, 2019
Avon, Colo — Besides their legs of steel, pro cyclists and pro skiers have more in common than you’d think, as noted by the world’s best skier: Olympic and World Champion Mikaela Shiffrin.
Before the 2019 Colorado Classic® presented by VF Corporation rolled onto Shiffrin’s home turf in Avon for Stage 2 presented by FirstBank, the 24-year-old local hero welcomed the race by discussing a few of the similarities shared between ski racing and road cycling during a chat with VF Corporation’s Anita Graham on Thursday night.
“There are a lot more similarities than people realize,” Shiffrin said. “First of all, you have the speed and feeling the wind in your face. The actual movement, the push-pull that your legs and feet do in biking is a very similar movement to skiing. Biking is more of a linear sport … you add more of a three dimensional quality to it and you basically have a ski turn.”
Having done her fair share of road cycling and mountain biking for cross training, Shiffrin has drawn parallels to the g-forces involved in both.
“When biking, I’m always thinking, how would this feel if I were in my ski boots on my skis? You don’t want a lot of pressure coming at the end of a turn, because then you’re working against gravity and that’s when you slide out. It’s the same thing in skiing. You want to be working with gravity, finding your apex in the turn so you can accelerate out of it,” she said.
Surprisingly, Shiffrin is not as relentless on the pavement as she is on the icy slopes.
“I have not been the type of cyclist who’s good at going downhill. I’m not particularly good at going uphill either, but on the downhill I use my brakes a lot,” she said. “The road rash … I never signed up for that. If there’s gravel on the road or it’s wet at all, I’m going to go bike inside.”
One area where cycling and ski racing diverge is their prize money track record. While ski racing has offered equal prize purses for both men and women nearly since the inception of the World Cup, there has historically been a gap in cycling, one which the 2019 Colorado Classic aims to close in offering a $75,000 prize purse — nearly four times more than the women have ever made in the event and more than the Classic paid out in the men’s event in 2018.
With her unprecedented 17 victories last season (and two World Championship gold medals), Shiffrin earned a record $885,000 in prize money, nearly double that of the top earning male racer (who didn’t win nearly as many races). Shiffrin appreciates the progress being made in closing the gender gap in all sports, but believes events like the Colorado Classic, which simply showcases the sport’s top competitors, who happen for this event to be all women, is a massive step in the right direction.
“I think it’s awesome to put that opportunity there. There’s so many sports where the men’s events overshadow the women’s event. To make it so there is no overshadowing — to make this the highlight, to say this IS the show, I do think that makes a big difference, because people will be just as excited to watch,” she said.
Shiffrin compares the spectacle of the 2019 Colorado Classic to that of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, whose FIFA World Cup triumph earlier this year buoyed the spirits of the entire nation.
“It’s huge to be able to put that show in the forefront,” she said. “It’s something you saw from the women’s national (soccer) team. People just want to see good sport. They want to see good quality entertainment. Something that kind of irks me in this effort to reach equality is pitting women against men or men against women, when I feel that men are a huge part of the solution. It should be about trying to lift everybody up. Men are a huge part of the conversation. When you see an event like this where [women] are the highlight and the show, it’s not pitting anyone against each other. It’s just highlighting sport at its best level. And that’s super cool.”
The 2019 Colorado Classic® presented by VF Corporation is the only women’s standalone pro road race in the Western hemisphere. Nearly 100 of the world’s best racers from 16 teams are competing in the four-stage race over challenging iconic Colorado mountain and urban terrain Aug 22-25.