Demand and supply for women’s racing

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tour de France TV

Most of content on the Inner Ring is about men’s pro road racing but I follow the women’s side of the sport too. Right now we’re seeing teams disappearing and in 2011 some of the big races on the calendar have gone, a point made in an articulate interview by Australian rider Bridie O’Donnell on SBS.

There are calls to improve the women’s side of the sport with ideas like compulsory women’s teams for every World Tour squad or for big race organisers to put on a women’s race too, with Gerard Vroomen making some great arguments. I like these ideas… but maybe there’s more to be done?

For me any changes to the rules are changes to the supply-side of the sport. We can make rules about hiring more women or obliging race organisers to do more. But the problem right now is the demand-side, no?

Let’s go back to the roots. Why does a pro team exist? The money is there because a company wants its branding on a team, for the association and imagery that goes with this. There are other reasons but that’s the main one.

So by all means fund a women’s squad too or make it compulsory for major race organisers to put on a women’s race but for me, the real difference would be increased TV coverage. It’s this that brings in sponsorship like no other.

TV is everything
Look at the Tour of California. In 2005 there was one US Pro Conti team in Navigators; when the new race started in 2006 this doubled with Healthnet-Maxxis and in the lower Continental level, several team teams emerged. As soon as the TV coverage was agreed team owners and others had a big draw for potential sponsors. Britain has seen something similar with increased TV exposure between 2008 and 2009 when TV coverage of domestic criteriums was in place: three Conti teams grew to five. German cycling went through a boom too with new teams emerging as the sport grew in popularity and broadcast hours before doping stories caught up with Jan Ullrich. TV creates the demand for pro cycling teams.

This raises the question of how to get more TV coverage. Now that’s the hard part. Having a women’s race on the same course and within hours of a men’s race is surely ideal for lowering production costs. Many will tune in to watch the main men’s race but if a fraction stay to watch, say, a 20 minute TV package of women’s racing then you’re getting there and giving sponsors a real reason to get involved.

Lead by example
I think the UCI could take a lead. The governing body is in a unique position of being able to set the rules, including some broadcast rights. That’s why the most prominent women’s races are the Worlds and Olympics, because they get live coverage on mainstream TV across Europe and beyond. Now that the UCI is venturing into race promotion, it would be great to see it do this with a commitment to expand women’s racing. What about a women’s Tour of Beijing for example?

Points in short supply
But it’s possible to exploit other sources of demand. Many teams are desperate for World Tour ranking points and one trick for a squad aspiring for a World Tour licence could be that women’s ranking points count towards a team’s total, men and women combined. I’ve documented the rush to sign Iranian riders which sadly is more about their points than giving new talent a break in the top league.

If teams embrace this logic, perhaps we could also see the UCI enlarge their sporting criteria to include women’s points? The arithmetic can be toyed with but it’s another way to see teams spend more on the women’s side and it essentially sees the impressive demand for a World Tour licence exploited in order to subsidise a women’s team. Maths aside, perhaps the simple notion of supporting the sport via a women’s team (or an U-23 development team) can count in favour of an applicant too?

Summary
TV is the all-important thing, it will bring sponsors in to the sport. Get more TV coverage and we’ll have more pro teams for women and riders being better paid. The UCI, as governing body, is able to act in several ways, for example leading by example by promoting more women’s racing or to exploit the demand by some teams for a men’s World Tour licence by encouraging them to see the women’s side as a viable investment that can complement a men’s team.

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{ 38 comments }

TomH October 25, 2011 at 11:41 am

I’ve written this before as a comment on your website. Companies that apply for a UCI World Tour license should be rewarded if they have autonomous anti-doping structure, run a U23 team, run a woman’s team. Next to the current rules about participation and solid finances this would definately make the playing field more level and therefore the competition in women’s racing much more attractive.

A downside to this could be that global cycling would seem to be reduced to four or five teams for the outsider. But when the rules are well enforced the competition will be exciting to watch (and make good TV in the process).

Sidamo October 25, 2011 at 11:41 am

Men’s racing had the GTs and Monuments as a base, and therefore a large potential worldwide audience eagerly awaiting live coverage.

Is there a pent-up demand for TV coverage of women’s races?

red knight October 25, 2011 at 11:46 am

hmmm, good idea.
I always look sporza for cycling. The main classics, domestic races and grand tours get hours of live feed per race. Sometimes you feel that the commentators are looking for stuff to say when doing eg. live coverage of Milan-SanRemo where nothing happens in the first 250km’s.
I think a short summary 5 -10 mins or even the last 5 kms would be ideal as they would have a new topic to talk about. They can even go back to the main event when something happens and return 5-10min later on to women cycling.
The only problem that I see is the extra cost of putting this on camera. Perhaps UCI can help there in the beginning?

Ankush October 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm

This is a wonderful post. I remember having this discussion earlier but as Inrng has pointed out, it’s all about television coverage and UCI should take the lead to ensure it happens. Sadly, we keep debating on all these important topics but the administrators remain busy lining their pockets.

Rider Council October 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Ladies first. If a number of the big pro races could have a women’s race prior to the men’s event this would give people the opportunity to see just how amazingly competitive they are and every bit as professional. It’s happening in Cross, the sport is growing and its fantastic to watch.
There is a Gran Fondo in Italy that has a pro women’s race the day before and it works. We have to see them first in action to get it and build the interest. Mixing it up with a GF or Sportive gives them a decent audience. It will be always difficult for them to compete with men’s pro racing on TV.
http://www.7murifermani.it/murifermani/home.shtml

Emily B October 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I think live streaming is key. Most of the cycling fans I know are watching cycling on their computers and tweeting about it. I agree if women’s cycling were easier to follow, more people would follow it.

The Inner Ring October 25, 2011 at 5:50 pm

TomH: I think I remember the point but at the time of writing I was trying to think “where is the demand, where is the money going” so I didn’t “steal” the idea but yes, I do think it is a valid argument to explore.

Sidamo: good question. I do think people will prefer the men’s racing, many watch the sport because of the big feats of endurance. But that doesn’t mean some won’t watch the women’s racing.

red knight: the cost could be shared. If you have fixed cameras at the finish line already and a TV production crew awaiting the men’s race then you could do it with two moto cameras. Just, but enough for some during the empty point of a race.

Ankush: let’s give it time but with teams pulling out, let’s not be too patient.

Rider Council: I totally agree. We won’t see big changes overnight so gradual improvements to build things are just what is needed.

Emily B: streaming is great for us fans and internet broadcasting getting more and more relevant but for now sponsors want the mainstream TV channels that reaches ordinary people who might have the TV on… and not people like you and me who will watch anyway

El Gato de La Cala October 25, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Some sports seem more ideal for unisex than others. Cycling, unfortunately, is not one of the these.. In danger of sounding like an old chauvinist with a grind on his face who would suggest that female bike riders could do the “Beach-Volley-Trick” and strip down to bikinis or even race naked, I simply cannot enjoy watching 1.000 meter sitting sprints, as well as I struggle finding pleasure in seeing attempts to attack on open straight roads with absolute no power in the legs! It is not a question about TV coverage – it is a question about quality in the bike races – male or female riders.

evan October 25, 2011 at 6:23 pm

wouldn’t making these things mandatory put even more of a financial squeeze on race organizers and racing teams? You and Gerard make arguments that women’s cycling will be an economic win but if this is the case why hasn’t the free market picked up on it? Cycling is a business, not a charity.

You spend most of the time on your blog raking the UCI over the coals (and rightly so) because they use worldtour points as a contrivance to twist the arms of the protour and wannabe-protour outfits. But then you suggest that women’s teams should count towards the criteria for men. How is that logical? So then an inferior men’s team will throw money at Marianne Vos just so they can get into the tour de france, and a more deserving men’s squad is left out in the cold.

I don’t understand your motivation for wanting more coverage of the women’s side of the sport. You take it for granted that this is a noble and worthwhile goal, but why is it? Pouring more money into pro sports doesn’t make the world a better place. Getting amateurs to ride bikes for recreation and health will have a much bigger impact and as a side effect their dollars will “trickle up” to make profitable women’s pro cycling possible.

Alfonsina October 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm

I have read this blog for a long time but this is the first time I have posted. I wasn’t going to post and then I thought, well if a post about

Firstly, thank you for this great blog. Secondly, hello to everyone.

Thirdly, back to the matter at hand, thank you for addressing this in the way that you have. It is nice to have the case for an increase in the exposure of women’s cycling made in such a measured and comprehensive way.

Some people may find it boring, not fast enough etc, etc but other’s may not but like the bigger argument that there is no demand for coverage of women’s racing but how can you really guage any of this when there is next to no coverage? Demand and of course appreciation can increase once the product is televised. I for one would love to watch women’s racing.

Women cycle this is a fact that cannot be ignored. They cycle for all reasons, for utilitarian transport reasons, for exercise, for sport and competitively. This fact is so underrepresented in all aspects of cycling, from manufacturing and retail to coverage of women’s racing. Therefore, increasing exposure of women’s racing can only I believe have a trickle down effect into all other areas of women’s cycling. Please don’t think I see women cyclists as separate I don’t but I am often made to feel this way when I am not represented.

I wasn’t going to comment on this post and then I thought, well if a post about the ‘offy’ can get 57 or something replies ;o) and a post about the coverage of women’s cycling only gets 8 or so replies this looks like people are more interested in the etymology of certain words than in women’s cycling. Well I for one am interested in women’s cycling.

Alfonsina October 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Ok don’t know what happened to the weird formatting of my last comment. Oh well second comment. I’m not increasing the comment count on purpose, honest ;o)

The Inner Ring October 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm

El Gato de La Cala: I don’t think we can compare the two, it is more possible to complement the two. Plus note the largest segment of the TV audience for most bike races is senior citizens and “housewives”.

evan: my point was more to explore ways to create the demand rather than legislating women’s cycling into place. On the “points supply” paragraph, I was turning the tables but given many teams are scrambling for the places, if this is to continue, maybe there’s a way of using it to broaden and develop the sport. As for motivation, I’m just disappointed to see some of the big squads going and wanted to think about ideas to change this. Obviously this blog is 99% mens pro road racing but if women want to compete, they need coaching, they need team cars, they need helpers and teams. And a professional set up is a great way to do this.

Alfonsina: thanks! (and the formatting looks normal from here)

Rider Council October 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Great, this one is stirring it up. To me women’s cycling just needs to be ‘discovered’ for it to be appreciated. You have to really see the ladies side of the sport in it’s own context. Their competitive spirit is just as interesting and complex as the men. When it has your attention then you can really appreciate it. I would suggest checking out a race live first, particularly cross, to see just how tough and beautiful it is. It has to have the interest at grass roots level first and it can if promoted well. It should contrast not compete with the men.

Don October 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm

I think that the interview with Bridie O’Donnell is informative and introspective about women’s racing. She offers insight about the differences between men and women in their physiology and tactics, among other things. She even says that in the sport there are things that men can learn from women. I felt convinced. At the end of the interview, I think that the interviewer nailed it: who is going to speak for the women racers. During the interview, Bridie pointed to Pat McQuaid. Admittedly, I am distant from the sport and know little about the professional sport; however, I could not help think that the corrupted old man would not be an advocate for women’s sport. Before getting to operational issues like TV coverage and UCI selection criteria, a voice and outlet for women in the sport must happen in order for other things to happen. Both InnerRing and Gerard Vrooman have expressed themselves but more must occur.

Q October 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I’ve watched TV coverage of women’s races in the past (I specifically recall watching an edition of the HP Women’s Challenge back when it was still going), and very much enjoyed them, but I don’t think I’ve seen U.S. TV coverage of a women’s cycling event other than the olympics in years.

I really like the idea of running a women’s race on the same course finishing a couple of hours ahead of the men. That would actually improve the TV viewing experience of a lot of long races, and make me likely to start watching earlier.

I do have a limited amount of time for watching cycling on TV, and I will admit that men’s cycling would probably take precedence if there were more cycling on TV than I had time for (that’s usually only a problem during the Tour, of course).

Terry from Yorkshire October 25, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Great subject , I agree with compulsory womens teams and then it’s to everbodies benefit to develop the womens side of racing , which at the moment doesn’t get enough coverage

Riders like Nicole Cooke deserve better than to be worrying about getting a sponsor every year

OJT October 25, 2011 at 9:53 pm

The SBS interview with Bridie O’Donnell is superb, she’s a really good ambassador for the sport. Well constructed arguments delivered with humility and authority. I agree with her points about improving women’s cycling. And some interesting facts in there too. I was surprised to hear about the “age cap” rule, which really doesn’t seem to have been thought through at all. Instead of forcing teams to hire young riders, it means the sport cannot mature properly. Thanks for posting the link. True insight as always.

Peter October 25, 2011 at 10:47 pm

We have sponsored a women’s team, and I have to say that it was not to make money from the commercial side. We didn’t make a cent. So why did we do it? Partly out of ego, partly out of principle (promoting women’s sports is a good thing in my book), but mainly because women’s racing is damn exciting. I watch amateur and professional men racing and I watch women racing. It is different, but the women’s version is just plain exciting and interesting. Did you see the picture of the women’s finish at the worlds? Can you ever get a better statement of racing at the top level than the image of taking second again? You get the same quality for your time investment, sometimes more.

Does that make it commercially viable? No, but you have posted several times about wealthy owners who seem to make teams for the same reasons that we chose to be a sponsor of a women’s team – ego, principle, and excitement. My contention would be that there are a few wealthy women (or men) who can make a race or team happen out of their own pockets for a year or two. I think that is how it can start.

Chromatic Dramatic October 25, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I think it should be noted that at Olympic level, it’s generally not the governing sports (of all sports) that are pushing for both men’s and women’s events. This is driven by the Olympic organisations.

You now see nearly every olympic sport having both male and female competitions.

If you look at rugby, 7′s rugby didn’t make the London 2012 program because the proposal didn’t include women…

What is my point? Well many managing organisations don’t give a toss about women’s sport, and the growth of women’s sport is being driven largely by factors outside of those organisations. I would argue, that for the future of all sports, they need to fully embrace providing equivalent sporting opportunities for women, as the future success of their sport depends on it.

ave October 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm

I fear the only way to cover a woman’s TdF during the real TdF means less airtime for the real one. I see no other way.
Also in the spring there’s so many races I can’t even follow all the men’s racing!

That said it’s possible that there’s -let’s say- a womans Ronde just before the man’s race, and they show some highlights before the live action. But then, I’d prefer to see the live action.

btw. I did watch most of the women’s world championships races but watching the junior ladies just made me mad. The late two-up breakaway, I do not want to comment on. But also the winner was in a late lone breakaway and still won an uphill sprint at the end.

Gillis October 26, 2011 at 2:24 am

I’d watch women’s cycling for the same reasons i’d watch women’s beach volleyball. fact.

TotheBillyoh October 26, 2011 at 3:44 am

Another good thought provoking post, thanks. Isn’t the problem generic to all women’s sport, that is they do not attract a TV audience? Perhaps women have better things to do than sit an watch TV? Perhaps men will not watch women play sport because of a belief they can “do it better, faster, harder”?

Ross October 26, 2011 at 4:32 am

Let me make a completely sweeping and unqualified, but probably true, statement: basically women aren’t interested in watching sport, and men aren’t interested in watching women’s sports. And this probably applies to cycling as much as any other sport.

If women’s cycling is to prosper, then it definitely needs a much larger female audience, which is really difficult because, as I said above, they’re not particularly interested in it. The million dollar question is “how do you change this?”. I’m sure much greater minds than mine have considered this dilemma and, to date, no solution has been found.

Another important point to note is that men’s cycling has a very long and rich history, and I think a large part of the attraction to the sport, for both men and women, is this great heritage, while women’s cycling does not (or if it does, it is very badly publicised).

Cykel October 26, 2011 at 8:02 am

The major issue comes from its roots, whereby cycling governing bodies need to provide their enduring support of the women’s side of the sport, no matter what the cost. Just look at what it has taken to get women’s soccer up and running in the US, and now they have a flourishing league.
If the support is provided at grass roots level, then there will be more cyclists competing, meaning greater depth in races, meaning all competitors will improve. But this does not happen overnight. This takes a generation to improve, and believe it or not, it has actually begun.

In Australia, the governing body are providing their support for women’s sport. Women at grass roots level have taken things into their own hands and continue to develop an inviting community for women to race in, while our major events are now starting to showcase women’s support races, such as the recent Honda Women’s Tour in as part of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour, and the National Road Series. This improvement will filter its way through to the senior ranks with time, and see Aussie women even more dominant than they already are…but with time.

At Cykel, we are in the midst of developing a women-only season long criterium race series. There are no mens races, just races for elite & masters women, and under 17 aged girls. When asked why we developed this series, I have two answers:
1. A bunch of women cyclists asked me to, and told me exactly why, and
2. I have a four year old daughter, and I hope that when she is old enough to race, if she wants to, there will be a nurturing community of women that will support and encourage her to achieve whatever she wants to.

The women in the sport have started to take things into their own hands. In the past, where women have asked for help, ‘the old regime’, including the sport’s governing bodies, has let them down. They have learned to do it for themselves at all levels of the sport, whether it be pro’s, amateurs, officials, volunteers or media. The more women involved in the sport, the more demand there will be for TV coverage, for a share of the sponsorship dollar and all the other benefits we see from World Tour.

Well done to those who have supported women’s cycling so far. If the great work continues, then I hope that this will discussion will be confined to history.
To Ross, it should be considered that at the turn of the 20th century, it wasn’t particularly acceptable for women to leave the house for things other than domestic duties (gross generalisation, but you know what I mean), hence a lack of history for women’s cycling to date. Unfortunately, I expect it will be another ten years or so before women’s cycling is able to capitalise on the history that it is currently moulding.

Stylo October 26, 2011 at 10:05 am

I agree very much with your argument for more TV coverage. In the UK if you ask the average non cyclist
who Mark Cavendish is they will have heard of him and also that he’s a pro cyclist. However, if you ask who Nicole Cooke is they more than likely won’t have a clue, and when you look at her palmares it easily
rivals the best men.

Sarah October 26, 2011 at 10:29 am

Those “women can’t cycle/women don’t like sport” made me laugh out loud! The women’s racing is a lot more attacking than men’s on average, as they ride shorter races, so can race harder.

The tv thing is critical – and it doesn’t help that the UCI get to be in charge of TV rights for the World Cup races, but don’t seem to do much constructive with them. I wrote a bit about the tv theme earlier in the year on Podium Café, with examples of good practice and ideas how all kinds of stakeholders can help.

Re points, the UCI have been doing some really interesting things in other forms of cycling – with CX, they have made it compulsory for every C1/C2 race to have a women’s race – and it’s resulting in 10-mins tv on Sporza before each men’s race (yay!) – and in MTB they changed the rules so the team points competition goes on (IIRC) top 3 mens & top 2 women’s points. It wasn’t mandatory for men’s teams to add women’s teams…. but it did result in a rash of signings. They could easily add something like that to the men’s – if you want the team prize, you have to be THE best bloody good men’s team, or have a women’s one (and actually, teams like Rabobank would probably get more points from their women than their men – and it would be a close call for HTC…)

Anyway, thanks for this article, it’s always good!

runrider October 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Bridie does a great job of putting the point across, she is making good sense in what she says & has a grasp on the reality of the situation, even better she knows the areas that need to be looked at. She should seek a position within Cycling Australia or the UCI once she stops racing to help promote womens cycling as she is very convincing and would be a good spokesperson.
This is one area of the sport that has never developed as it should. I remember back in 1984/5 when I got into following cycling there was a huge women’s scene in the US & Europe ( it seemed like it was at least). This was in part due to post L.A. Olympics & the success of the USA riders, Taylor Phinney’s mother Connie Carpenter was one of the top riders. At the time there was also a womens Tour de France( Femme), the stages were held over the last 100km of the mens stages most days & took place in the mornings using the same finish line etc. But the tour is so massive & different now compared to back then that this might not be possible today.
However the UCI need to get serious about this ‘half’ of the sport and the comments made about Pro Tour teams having U23 & Female squads on paper make sense. However with the current state of the GFC & teams folding or merging in the Pro Tour its going to be a tough five years ahead for the whole sport of cycling, not just the female side! Apart from tennis & athletics when you think about it there are not too many sports where the girls get treated seriously by the media, and general public. Sports fans would usually seem to be male, so the interest will just not be there in this side of the sport, in the USA, UK & Australia even cycling is pushing it to get a mention over Football or Motorsport in the media apart from in July.

Alfonsina October 26, 2011 at 3:20 pm

The idea that women don’t watch sport is a massive sweeping generalisation. I shall speak for myself as that is all I am really able to do. As a woman I enjoy watching cycling whoever is doing it, men or women. I always have since I was very little as it’s always been a part of my family life. Back then and now 99.9% of the time I watched/watch men’s cycling (apart from during the Worlds and the Olympics). This is because there is not women’s cycling on TV where I live. Greater coverage leads to greater participation at the grassroots level which leads to greater coverage which leads to…

You only have to look at the way cycling has grown in the UK recently. Some put this down to the success of British cycling but it is more I would argue about increased coverage, yes success might produce more coverage but how do you kow about success if there is no coverage? Look at the case of Nicole Cooke she was relatively successful before Cavendish or Wiggins on the road but this didn’t lead to an increase in coverage. Why? Because there is no coverage of women’s cycling, no impetus to cover women’s cycling and a woeful team/UCI support structure for women’s cycling. It was so bad with Cooke that some media outlets in the UK were saying Cavendish was the first UK road race World Champion since Simpson, when they should have said first male champion.

If as a woman I can appreciate both men and women’s sport I wonder why some men claim to only be able to appreciate men’s sport? This is a genuine quesiton that has always foxed me. I don’t tend to see gender when I watch sport, I see talent. I didn’t think there was anything strange in pretending to be Abdoujaparov as a kid, in fact I took this a little too far and still have the scars ;o)

Anyway it’s nice to be able to discuss this in an intelligent way. Thanks all.

Sarah October 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm

And another thing!!

Re demand, I came to cycling via track, and there’s pretty much equal coverage of men’s and women’s track – and at the track in real life it’s hardly as though the men all crowd out when the women’s races start (quite the opposite in the UK because of all the amazing riders!). And I don’t follow triathlon, but when I see it on Eurosport, it seems like there’s equal coverage of women’s & men’s sport. I guess these are both closed environments, so it’s easier to film – but like Alfosina, I’m also genuinely confused as to why men feel they can’t watch women’s road cycling – and especially all the people who say women’s racing is boring, when the whole point is we don’t get to see much of it. I defy anyine to be bored by eg the Giro Donne!

Big Mikey October 26, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Ross nailed it, imho: women (generally) don’t watch sports and men don’t watch women’s sports. Pretty basic, but largely true.
Another problem with women’s cycling is the lack of competitiveness. It’s a really, really short list of competitors that tend to win.

Not sure what you do about it, other than nurture local girls cycling where possible and hope for the best. Mandating female equivalent events has been tried before (WNBA, Title IX anyone?) and it hasn’t workd.

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm

The women’s world champs race was on TV. The biggest one-day race on the calendar. If a potential sponsor was watching that, or even someone looking to get into the sport for that case, what’s the likelihood that they’re going to be excited about women’s racing after witnessing that? TV doesn’t make cycling, the riders’ exploits do. Despite the fact that I watch a lot of live (men’s) racing, the majority is via http://www.cyclingnews.com, not on TV. Would I keep reading about it if everyone sat in the pack until the last few hundred metres? No. So if the racers themselves don’t race, if they don’t animate the racing to make it attractive to viewers and sponsors, then why should we expect anyone else to step in and do it for them?
Take a look at Ironman racing and what the individual female pros deliver to their sponsors in terms of publicity, accessibility and character. Not to mention a sporting spectacle. Sorry, but if I were a company looking to invest my marketing dollars in women’s sport, it’s not going to be women’s road racing.

Lisa Dempster October 27, 2011 at 12:40 am

A great read and some excellent points in here! However, I’m a little disappointed to read that you do follow women’s procycling, as you hardly ever write about it. Why is that? If you women’s procycling, why not report on it alongside the male side of things? For exactly the same reasons why tv should, as listed above: more coverage = higher consciousness of the sport = more sponsors = greater opportunities for female cyclists. If tv and big media think there is a demand for something, they will supply it, so seeing a rise in women’s cycling reportage online would be a good step in the right direction.

The Inner Ring October 27, 2011 at 8:44 am

Lisa Dempster: good points… but if I know a little about the men’s side, I know a little less about the women’s side. It’s been on my mind to look for more stories though. But my real concern is widespread coverage into people’s homes, instead of niche blogs like this.

Rich October 27, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I believe in the point Cykel raised, at grass routes cycling in the UK female participation is low compare to the men. I feel this needs to be first tackled at the grass routes level, which I know British Cycling are working on. Once you get more young females in to cycling your talent pool will increase and over time more top level riders will be produced.

To highlight the point this weekend there is a National Cyclo-cross race in the UK, there will be across all levels around 46 females and 253 males racing.

Oskayono October 28, 2011 at 8:46 am

Great article, a lot of interesting points, minimal chauvinism in the comments section. As someone that invests money and time into Women’s cycling, with just reward, constructive dialogue like this just helps our sport get better. People are saying adding a women’s component to World Tour teams will harm an already fragile system. I only see it adding benefit for sponsors, fans, investors and the sport in general.

Pagey Poo's Pop October 29, 2011 at 4:54 am

It’s gotta start at the bottom, & the top. Here in California, My now 16 year old daughter got into it at 13. I entered her into a circuit race for Junior Women, but it was a combined field, meaning she was racing against 18 year olds. The governing bodies of the sport, in our case, USACycling, must “encourage” promoters to help grow the sport. In our area, alot of races combine Jr women & men. How crazy is that, to have 14 y/o girls racing with 18 y/o “boys”? Promoters should be required to support the growth of the sport. That means separate fields for Jr. Women, not “Raced together, scored separately” as is a common practice here.

Then there is the team aspect from a Jr. Woman point of view. We found a very good & supportive Junior development team, but they were very “Male – centric”. 2 women to 30 men. As my daughter told me, as she was considering a move to another team: “Dad, cycling is a team sport. When (coach) gets together with the boys before a race, he talks for half an hour about strategy & tactics. Then before our race he tells me just go fast & don’t get dropped”.

I think part of the answer lies with the pro teams’ involvement in Jr. Development. This past season my daughter had the opportunity to move to an all woman’s jr. team, affiliated with a Professional woman’s team. (Team TIBCO/To the Top Junior Women’s Cycling). More teams should do this, combined with governing bodies pressure on promoters of amature events to nurture the jr women side, and a rising tide will float all boats, so to speak.

For 30 years I have been a fan of pro road cycling. I never gave the woman’s side of the sport a serious look until a few years ago, because of my daughter’s interest. It is just as exciting, and makes for as good TV as the men’s. Vroomen & Inrng got it correct. If it was presented to the masses, they would watch, and would become excited. Every July, my daughter asks me why there isn’t more women’s cycling on TV. I have no answer, but this last summer she said: “Well, maybe by the time I’m pro in a few years, you’ll be able to see me in the Women’s Giro or Tour of Flanders on live TV.”

Sarah October 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Pagey Poo’s Pop: I’m really glad your daughter has found a good team. I knew I loved Tibco, now I love them even more!) – and you probably know about this, but Cycling Fever collect any online coverage of women’s racing here. It’s not much, but I really recommend the Giro Donne footage – an hour of each day’s racing, some spectacular riding in beautiful Italy – check’em out here

Pagey Poo's Pop October 29, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Thanks Sarah, I didn’t know. We’ll surely check it out. Tibco/To the Top also sponsors an amature woman’s team in our area. The mentorship & role models for my daughter from these athletes, as well as from the pro women, has been great for her. Again, thanks for the tip.

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