Women’s Pro Cycling: La Course by Le Tour de France

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La Course by Le Tour de France

The upcoming La Course by Le Tour de France race is going to shine a spotlight on women’s pro cycling, as top women’s teams will be competing on the same finishing circuit in Paris just hours before the final stage of the men’s Tour de France, including the famous finish on the Champs Elysees. While this 90km race is not the same as having a full 3 week Grand Tour, holding it on the same day and location as the final stage of the men’s race means that it will get coverage for an elite women’s race unlike anything that’s happened before. We are excited to watch a great race and see an emphasis on women’s pro cycling – especially the Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies team racing on their Diamondback bikes!

Equal pay for equal pain

A few weeks ago we got the opportunity to see some of these pro cyclists in action at the Philly Cycling Classic, one of the toughest one day races on the women’s cycling calendar. The slogan of the race was “equal pay for equal pain”, as the men’s and women’s races featured equal prize money. The race was a fantastic showcase for women’s cycling, with a closely fought competition only settled on the last climb of the Manayunk Wall, when Evelyn Stevens pulled out victory in a ferocious sprint.

Q+A session with top female pros at the Philly Cycling Classic

Q+A session with top female pros at the Philly Cycling Classic

Importance of sponsoring women’s pro cycling

One of the most interesting parts of the weekend was the chance to hear directly from the pros at a question and answer session before the race. Before the cyclists spoke, Karen Bliss, Vice President of Marketing for Fuji, talked about how important it was for Fuji to sponsor riders and teams – for product development, brand recognition, and authority in the cycling world. Fuji puts a special focus on supporting and developing women’s teams because they see the potential for growth – Karen is an accomplished former professional rider herself, a seven-time national champion on the road and track, and sits on the UCI women’s cycling commission. Also speaking was Lisa Nutter, the wife of the Mayor of Philadelphia – she is an avid cyclist and a huge advocate for cycling in Philadelphia. Mrs. Sutter got back into cycling in her 40s, and now seriously competes on the track and the road – she was a big influence on the “equal pay for equal pain” idea.

 Can we compete with the men? We’d like to find out!

As the pros got the chance to answer questions, it became clear that they are just as dedicated, motivated and competitive as the male pros, but their opportunities for exposure and financial success were not the same. Alison Powers, the current US national road, criterium and time trial champion, spoke about there needed to be a change of mindset for cycling fans, promoters, and her fellow female pros – they needed to create an expectation for better treatment and improved exposure. This would lead to better teams, races, and opportunities to grow the sport. Her fellow pros train as much as the men, 8-20 hours a week, but they don’t train for the same distance since the UCI limits their races to 140km. When asked if female pros could compete in a men’s race, Powers and other replied that if they did train for the same distance as the men, they could probably hang in the race – maybe not to the end, but they’d like the chance to find out!

So the biggest difference between the men and women pro riders was in the opportunities they had to succeed. When asked if they also worked full time in addition to their racing, almost every pro in attendance raised her hand to say that they had to work another job – this might be expected at a lower level men’s team, but these were some of the top women’s teams in the world. That’s why the opportunity to showcase their talent at a showcase as big as La Course by Le Tour de France is such a big deal. We hope that it opens some doors, and some eyes, for just how entertaining women’s pro cycling can be.

What do you think would improve the acceptance of women’s pro cycling?

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