How to Grow Women's Pro-Cycling

Discussion in 'Pro Cycling (Road and Track Racing)' started by Flying_Monkey, 17 Aug 2012.

  1. Flying_Monkey

    Flying_Monkey Toll Collector on the Road to Nowhere

    There's a piece on CyclingNews today by Sarah Connolly about how women's cycling can be developed. She suggests 4 ways:

    1. Celebrating the differences between men's and women's cycling. Shorter distances mean different tactics etc. (see: the Olympic road races);
    2. Don't try to force teams to have a women's squad - use incentives at all levels;
    3. Change the UCI registration system for women - at the moment, there is only one level and it's the same rules as for men's continental teams, which favours youth and development.
    4. Make races more visible. More TV coverage etc. She suggests this is a matter of 'political will' of the governing bodies of the sport.

    My problems with these arguments?

    1. Well, for a start No.1 is purely the result of the prejudices that already exist in the sport. There is no reason why women's races have to be shorter, in fact, as physiological research has show, women perform better when stamina and staying power are concerned. In ultra-distance running, for example, the top men women regularly beat the top men.
    2. Secondly, incentives mean money. The fundamental problem is how to get the money in to support the sport. And I actually do support compulsion of teams. Entry to the World Tour should be conditional on having a men's and a women's team. Now, certainly this could be financially supported in some way - in fact it would need the same kind of cash injection as incentives at any other level.
    3. Yes. The registration rules are stupid.
    4. Yes, but it's easier said than done.

    Additionally, more work needs to be done with national federations. Some are really active in encouraging women's cycling, others much less so.

    What do others think?
    Roxy641 likes this.
  2. PpPete

    PpPete Guru

    Chandler's Ford
    Agree with FM on 1,2 and 4
    Don't know anything about the registration system so no opinion on 3.
  3. Chuffy

    Chuffy Veteran

    I don't know much about womens cycling, or sports admin/politics generally, but I was struck by the inherent contradiction posed by arguing in favour of the shorter distances, given all the grumbling there was during the Olympics about women's races being shorter than mens.

    On another point - not quite sure your ultra-distance running analogy is a fair one for pro-cycling. Ultra-distance running is a closer fit to long audaxes than it is to pro-cycling. Henri Desgrange isn't churning out 400k stages anymore...;)
  4. sheddy

    sheddy Guru

    I suspect if you can encourage women to cycle for recreation/commuting then sport take up will follow.
    Having said that, do Dutch/Danish women actually dominate world cycling ?
    Roxy641 likes this.
  5. lordloveaduck

    lordloveaduck Well-Known Member

    As long as the old guards are running things the woman's side will always be side lined. It's like the football at the Limpics, if the men had done as well as the women there would have been more news about it.

    It's not just about the UCI it's also about the TV networks (I so want to spank that Boardman chap and the other commentators for there lame sexist commentary during the Olympics ) advertisers and the public, a case of supply and demand.

    This was the first time i have watched the Olympics and it as such an inspiration to me, it has got me off my bottom
    and started me exercising.

    Would like to join a club, just need to pick up on my stamina and other things.
  6. OP

    Flying_Monkey Toll Collector on the Road to Nowhere

    True... but the general point was that women are not weak and feeble.
  7. Chuffy

    Chuffy Veteran

    Got that, I was just being pedantic.

    The author makes the point that shorter races, whatever the reasoning behind them, make for more exciting racing. Isn't she right? The logic behind making women ride shorter distances might be Victorian rubbish, but isn't it a red-herring?
  8. OP

    Flying_Monkey Toll Collector on the Road to Nowhere

    Well, Vos is Dutch. But actually I don't think that there is a real correlation between everyday cycling and sport cycling - and if you check out Grant Peterson's new book, Just Ride, he suggests that we should all stop thinking they are connected. I don't go that far, but in countries like Colombia there is very little everyday cycling, yet they churn out top (male) riders; whereas, if it was based on everyday cycling, Denmark and the Netherlands would dominate cycling - and while they have a lot of riders, they certainly aren't dominant. The only way in which more ordinary cycling might help is if more drivers were also cyclists, which would make them behave better towards riders on the road (whether commuters, racers, or leisure cyclists).

    But this is a broader topic than just encouraging women's cycling. I think that has to come from the top: from the UCI, from national federations, and from governments; and from the bottom: from local clubs and schools. And somehow too, we have to get past this ridiculous body image thing that stops young girls wanting to do any sport (because they don't want 'big thighs' etc.). Although that's way too big a job for cycling, at least in Britain, the success of British women at the Olympics might help a bit and encourage more girls to take up the sport.
  9. redcard

    redcard Über Member

    Isn't the problem that we're not really bothered much by female sports? It's not as if this is a cycling problem - we don't care about women's football either. If that sport isn't going anywhere, then what chance does cycling have?
  10. Smokin Joe

    Smokin Joe Legendary Member

    You cannot have distances in women's cycling that are as long as those in men's races until you have fields that are as big. A 180 mile race with just 50 riders will just turn into a very negative slog.
  11. oldroadman

    oldroadman Veteran

    Correct. A field of 200 would probably be a slog as well. About 150/160km would be OK with 100 starters. Men's races are long because attrition needs to work out, and that's when it gets past 4 hours. With the women it may be a little less, plus a look at average speeds shows a difference, even when distances are shorter. The 140km Olympic race was not bad at all, reasonably fast, but only around 60 starters, and they were leaving the back of the peloton in shedloads first time over Box Hill - which is not difficult by pro standards. The key is getting a larger and more evenly matched peloton, and that means a bigger base to start with, etc., etc.
    Look at BC membership as an example, 85% male, 15% female. Thus the base is 1/6 of the men, and so we can expect 1/6 of the number of women to rise to prominence compared to men, which means that races are much more diverse in ability. This leads to a mindset of hanging on as long as possible, until the big players decide to move, then it's down to no more tha 6 or so, in domestic races.
    The injection of cash and compulsion to force pro teams to fund a women's team is probably not the answer, but might seed a movement. Question is, would proteams bother, or just pay a fine (possibly cheaper to do), and you could not see UCI deregistering QuickStep, SKY, et al, for not running a women's team! Then, where does the cash come from, and the races? Sponsors for top level mens teams are tough to get, and organisers need to be persuaded to run women's races as aa stand alone event. Quite a few run in support of major mens races, but TV only bother with the last few kms, because otherwise not much happens (just like a mens race at times!).
    In the end, the public decide, if they support women's races then more will get put on and more riders will appear, Chicken and egg, 'm afraid.

    Little postscript, I see AA Drinks are folding at the end of this season, so the team which all the top British women has is going, and yet again they will be faced with finding a new employer. Sign of the times?

    It's just so easy for a journo to spout off in the press, when they have probably never competed at a decent level, or run a race, or run a team, or indeed done anything except report and comment. I do hope the article in CW has been written by someone who at least has had a go at some level, at one of these activities.
  12. OP

    Flying_Monkey Toll Collector on the Road to Nowhere

    Surely the quality of their arguments, and whether they are right or not, matters rather more...
  13. Smokin Joe

    Smokin Joe Legendary Member

    Forcing pro teams to have a women's section is like building a house from the roof down. You've got to build the base level before you before you try and increase the number of women competing professionally or you'll just end up with a load quota pros who aren't up to it and will just make the sport look stupid.

    Then it's a case of whether a sufficient number of women would be interested in racing. Even in athletics and tennis which have traditionally been sports which are more open to women their numbers are far exceeded by male participants.
  14. lukesdad

    lukesdad Guest

    If you want 4. to become reality making womens races longer would be counter productive. Women following the model of mens racing will not work in promoting it.
    The womens scene needs a radical re-think IMO. A european capitals street race series maybe ( not seriously suggesting it ) but you get the idea.
  15. OP

    Flying_Monkey Toll Collector on the Road to Nowhere

    Why do you think this is (or should be) about the male audience though? In the USA and Canada now, women constitute the main viewing base for women's soccer and hence it is growing, fast.
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