Failing To Follow the Women’s Professional Peloton
Failing To Follow
I love road cycling, but I don’t follow professional (pro) women’s road racing.
This is something I have felt a bit bad about for quite a while, without doing anything about it.
To be fair, I don’t follow any professional road racing, other than the Tour de France. I only got into following the Tour de France because I started working as a primary school teacher and the summer holidays in Scotland coincide beautifully with the start of the Tour. Before I had children I loved the first three weeks of the summer holidays the best. I would head out on my bike for a good few hours in the morning then spend the rest of the day lying on the sofa watching the extended coverage of the tour and reading a book. After I had children, I rarely got the chance and was limited to the highlights.
My husband follows pro cycling and has done for many years. Mostly this is men’s races, but he does follow some of the women’s racing too. We have a house full of cycling books and autobiographies. Once in a while I try to read them, but reading time is so limited and I prefer novels.
I’m not totally ignorant and I do know a few pro women’s names. I read Nicole Cooke‘s autobiography The Breakaway and was horrified by her experiences. It’s (rightly) hard to miss Lizzie Deignan (formerly Armitstead), Marianne Vos and Annemiek Van Vleuten.
I also know that – as in many sports – there are huge disparities between the men’s sport and the women’s. There is less money in women’s racing in terms of pay, prize money and sponsorship. There are less races. There is less media coverage. But I don’t really know the details of all the issues.
To be honest, this is a little embarrassing.
I am passionate about encouraging more women in cycling at all levels. I am a Breeze Champion concentrating mainly on leading rides for inexperienced women cyclists. I run women-only coaching sessions through Active Cycle Coaching. I have blogged about my own experience of starting out in criterium racing and road races in the hope of encouraging more women to race at an amateur level. I am currently working on a project to publish a directory of recommended cycle clubs to encourage more women to try club cycling.
Yet I know the names of more male than female professional road racers.
Time To Do Something About It
Due to Covid-19 many races this year have been cancelled or postponed. Some of them have gone virtual with racers competing on platforms such as Zwift, Trainer Road and RGT.
I can’t remember how I heard that this year’s Women’s Tour was going to run virtually but I decided to watch it. I actually really enjoyed it. OK, it’s not ‘real’ road racing but it’s the best we have right now. After the three days of this, I was hooked. I was keen to find out more and start actually following women’s pro road cycling.
Frustratingly, this is not proving an easy thing to do. Some aspects of cycling sometimes seem like a dark art – the information is out there, but it’s not easy to find.
He’s not wrong, these are great places to start. I did grit my teeth a little as I looked for the women’s racing section on Cycling News. You’ll find it along the top menu, next to road, gravel, mtb, track and cyclocross – as it women’s racing is something separate from road, gravel, mtb, track and cyclocross racing, rather than a part of all those disciplines.
I was keen to watch more women’s racing after enjoying the virtual Women’s Tour. The trouble is, women’s racing is rarely televised and it’s not always easy to find.
That said, right now there is a virtual Tour de France being run on Zwift. This is really exciting news as there is a women’s and a men’s race, each running over the exact same (albeit virtual) course. It runs at 2pm (in the UK) on the three weekends which should have been the ‘real’ Tour de France (4/5, 11/12 and 18/19 July). You can watch it on YouTube and it really is pretty good viewing. If the weather carries on as it has been this weekend (at least in Edinburgh anyway) then I can highly recommend it as turbo training viewing. If it’s not your cup of tea but you are still keen to support women’s racing, remember that nobody knows whether you are actually watching when you leave a video playing…
The Importance of Viewers and Readers
The Australian based Cycling Tips recently conducted a poll on their own coverage of women’s racing and the results are interesting. They also have a fantastic #WhyItMatters campaign. Interestingly, their Step 1 is exactly what my husband has been saying to me for years – that if we want more coverage of women’s racing then we need to be proving their is an appetite for this by watching, reading and following what there is.
On Mummy’s Gone A Cycle I can look up daily figures of how many people are visiting and what pages they view. This is exactly the same for all websites. For my website, I write whatever I feel like because my website is not commercial and does not aim to make money. For websites which are aiming to make money, they will focus on the content which gets the most visits.
If you are interested in Women’s racing and you want more coverage, you need to watch what there is, visit the websites which write about women, share the content and get the figures up.
Are You Interested?
My question is, are women interested in following women’s road racing? I think it was on the Cycling Podcast Feminin that the presenters were talking about the fact that it tends to be men who are already following men’s racing, who are currently following the women’s racing. Why is this?
In my case it’s because it’s not that easy to find out about and I’m a bit lazy. But, I am now going to start putting the effort in because I think it’s important to support the sport, but also because it is actually really interesting to follow.
As I find out more about the sport, would you be interested in more content on Mummy’s Gone A Cycle about this? If so, what do you want to know? Bear in mind that for the moment I am only talking about Road Racing since that is where my major interest lies.
Conversely, if you are already a dedicated follower of women’s racing, I would love your advice as to what to follow and where to look.
Over to you. Please comment below, or wherever you see this post and let me know what you think.