Women’s Cycling – an update for 2019

With the UCI announcing the WorldTour calendars for 2020 and that women’s teams will enjoy minimum provisions with effect from next year, including minimum salaries and entitlements for riders, there is a feeling that cycling is moving towards parity for men and women. But is that achievable or is it just a pipe dream for the female riders in the UK? 

Over the past few years, there has been a move to make the women’s racing equal to the men’s, with race distances being made longer as a consequence. In the UK, there has been a push to increase race distances for women, especially at a National Road Series level, with most races now over 100km, whereas perhaps five years ago, there were hardly any races that were over 50 miles (80km) in length. Whilst this can be called progress, we are moving towards a professional level of dedication, something for which perhaps the women’s sport is not yet ready. For example, there are not many teams that are able to pay riders’ expenses, let alone a wage, and this then means that many riders are effectively priced out of the market, especially when most national level events start at 9am, therefore meaning that an overnight stay is required, at a minimum. It should therefore come as no surprise if organisers are struggling to fill fields, as it becomes more and more costly to race at a national level without any significant financial support (whether that is from a sponsor or a family member). Is this sustainable, or do we need to find a –

And then we have the talent pipeline issue – we struggle to retain female riders after the age of 16, when riders make the transition from Youth to Junior, so it was hoped that the introduction of a Junior Women’s National Road Series would help bridge the massive gap from Youth to Senior. Unfortunately, probably to some degree as a consequence of coinciding with a major staff restructure at British Cycling, the Junior Women’s Series has not had the support from British Cycling that those involved at a grassroots’ level may have hoped to see, with organisers being given no guidance or support and races not being tied into the Series on the British Cycling website, therefore making it more difficult to find out what races were part of the Series. Those of us who are supposed to be in the know weren’t even told, so how riders are supposed to navigate the system to find the races does bring into question whether there really is a desire to see a push towards equality from a road racing perspective at British Cycling. We need British Cycling to be fully on board with the Junior Women’s Series and make sure that it is properly advertised, with organisers being given support and encouragement to promote these events if it is to be successful.

Next issue to be addressed is the shift in attitude with regards to risk assessment interpretation. Those of us who promote events for women are all too aware of the financial implications of promoting a women’s race – it is extremely difficult for an event to break even without a men’s race being organised in conjunction with the women’s race. At a regional level, when we first started promoting road races for women in 2013/14, the most viable way to do it was in conjunction with an existing men’s race, using the infrastructure which was already in place to add on a women’s race, usually starting a few minutes behind the men. This meant that we could ensure opportunities were being made available for women, without having to worry about the numbers. Unfortunately, a change in policy has meant that concurrent racing (where you have two events running alongside each other at the same time) is no longer deemed to be acceptable from a risk perspective and therefore the number of opportunities women will have to road race going forward will likely be substantially less, as organisers will opt –

 for men’s races that are easier to fill, rather than a potentially financially unviable women’s race. The risk assessment process is something which needs to be challenged – the outcome of this change in interpretation has effectively put a protected group (women) in a worse position and it is therefore paramount that a solution is found if British Cycling want to avoid a contravention of their own Equality Policy.

So what does all of this mean for women’s cycling? Well, whilst it’s great that the UCI have implemented a minimum salary requirement for Women’s WorldTour teams, it seems increasingly unlikely that there will be an increase in British riders gaining places on these teams if there is only limited financial support for those racing at a domestic level. Yes, it’s great that we have professional level National Series events but if nobody can afford to attend the races or organisers feel that the financial uncertainty is just too much, then the likelihood is that future cycling stars will not come from the UK, unless as a sport we can look at how events are run and redesign it to encourage as many people as possible to take part.

There are changes afoot at British Cycling, and a willingness to accept that what has come before has not necessarily been acceptable, but whether it will be too little too late remains to be seen. Let’s hope that we can find some solutions before it is too late.

All images © www.chrismaher.co.uk | CyclingShorts.cc

Heather Bamforth

Heather Bamforth

CyclingShorts.cc Sub-Editor

Heather has been with CyclingShorts.cc for 10 years attending and reporting on major cycling events; Tour de France, Tour de Yorkshire, World Track Championships, World Road Race Championships to name a few.

Influencer, Trustee & Founder of The Racing Chance Foundation Charity, Member of the British Cycling Road Commission, BC Regional board member and National Councillor

Heather is a highly respected member of the British Cycling community, she founded the Racing Chance Foundation, a cycling charity to help women gain experience in cycle racing and progress their cycling careers.

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Quick Road Bike Build Guide – Part 6 – Saddle & Finished Bike

In the final part of our bike build guide Richard puts the finishing touches to the bike before giving it a spin.

Richard Soh

Richard Soh

Founder of SOHBike

I have been commuting from NJ to NYC by bicycle for 7 years. The bus made me nauseous. Driving into the city involved too much traffic as well as expensive gas, tolls, and parking. Eventually I decided to ride my bicycle to work. I now look forward to my daily commute, I find it to be meditative. Over time I have tried out dozens of different bicycles and components. 3 years ago, I built my first experimental dream bike from scratch. It has carbon everything except for an aluminum frame and a Di2 Ultegra groupset. With pedals and battery, it weighs 17.75 lbs and it cost a fraction of comparably equipped bicycle.

I am now offering my custom built bicycles to the public. I use only the best components based on my personal experience. I believe if more people rode their bicycles the population would be physically and mentally healthier, and the world would be cleaner and greener. To promote bicycling I actively volunteer in bike-a-thons, teach kids and adults to ride bicycles, and work to influence public policy to help make bicycling safer.

Episodes

Quick Road Bike Build Guide – Part 4 – Shimano Di2 Wiring & Battery

In the third part of our bike build guide we will wire up the Shimano Di2 and install the battery. 

Richard Soh

Richard Soh

Founder of SOHBike

I have been commuting from NJ to NYC by bicycle for 7 years. The bus made me nauseous. Driving into the city involved too much traffic as well as expensive gas, tolls, and parking. Eventually I decided to ride my bicycle to work. I now look forward to my daily commute, I find it to be meditative. Over time I have tried out dozens of different bicycles and components. 3 years ago, I built my first experimental dream bike from scratch. It has carbon everything except for an aluminum frame and a Di2 Ultegra groupset. With pedals and battery, it weighs 17.75 lbs and it cost a fraction of comparably equipped bicycle.

I am now offering my custom built bicycles to the public. I use only the best components based on my personal experience. I believe if more people rode their bicycles the population would be physically and mentally healthier, and the world would be cleaner and greener. To promote bicycling I actively volunteer in bike-a-thons, teach kids and adults to ride bicycles, and work to influence public policy to help make bicycling safer.

Episodes

Quick Road Bike Build Guide – Part 5 – Drivetrain & Pedals

In the fifth part of our bike build guide Richard Soh installs the drivetrain and pedals. 

Richard Soh

Richard Soh

Founder of SOHBike

I have been commuting from NJ to NYC by bicycle for 7 years. The bus made me nauseous. Driving into the city involved too much traffic as well as expensive gas, tolls, and parking. Eventually I decided to ride my bicycle to work. I now look forward to my daily commute, I find it to be meditative. Over time I have tried out dozens of different bicycles and components. 3 years ago, I built my first experimental dream bike from scratch. It has carbon everything except for an aluminum frame and a Di2 Ultegra groupset. With pedals and battery, it weighs 17.75 lbs and it cost a fraction of comparably equipped bicycle.

I am now offering my custom built bicycles to the public. I use only the best components based on my personal experience. I believe if more people rode their bicycles the population would be physically and mentally healthier, and the world would be cleaner and greener. To promote bicycling I actively volunteer in bike-a-thons, teach kids and adults to ride bicycles, and work to influence public policy to help make bicycling safer.

Episodes

Quick Road Bike Build Guide – Part 2 – Vision Rim Installation

In the second part of our bike build guide we install the vision rim. 

Richard Soh

Richard Soh

Founder of SOHBike

I have been commuting from NJ to NYC by bicycle for 7 years. The bus made me nauseous. Driving into the city involved too much traffic as well as expensive gas, tolls, and parking. Eventually I decided to ride my bicycle to work. I now look forward to my daily commute, I find it to be meditative. Over time I have tried out dozens of different bicycles and components. 3 years ago, I built my first experimental dream bike from scratch. It has carbon everything except for an aluminum frame and a Di2 Ultegra groupset. With pedals and battery, it weighs 17.75 lbs and it cost a fraction of comparably equipped bicycle.

I am now offering my custom built bicycles to the public. I use only the best components based on my personal experience. I believe if more people rode their bicycles the population would be physically and mentally healthier, and the world would be cleaner and greener. To promote bicycling I actively volunteer in bike-a-thons, teach kids and adults to ride bicycles, and work to influence public policy to help make bicycling safer.

Episodes

I’m with the residents! – Velo Birmingham…

The tale of a train wreck 

Which residents? The NIMBY residents. The ones who say “cyclists – YES 15,000 cyclists – NO!” such were the placards alongside the roads in many lovely Worcestershire villages on the 24th of September. The day I finally decided to launch a campaign against the mass participation cyclo sportive, the day of the utter train wreck shambles that was the first Velo Birmingham.

Now look, I accept that this being the longest I’ve ever (and by a long way) taken to cover 100 miles on a bicycle will have coloured my judgment, but honestly, whilst I am embarrassed by that, it is not the reason I am utterly opposed now to this and Ride London. My dreadful time is merely a by product of this silly event.

 

Billed as a nice rolling ride through Birmingham’s surrounding counties, it was anything but rolling and just about the only flat sections, were the roughly 9 miles within the boundaries of Brum itself. It was brutal. Stupidly “ we are going to be the Billy Big Bollocks of all Sportives” brutal. Hills that were indicated as average 2%, but kicked up to over 15 and 17% brutal. It was a route that would have seen a walk out by a pro peloton.  Stopping and starting again and again because of accidents or the inexperienced falling off, poorly maintained bikes with gearing they didn’t understand, up one track (square peg in a round hole) 8% lanes. Spills and tumbles on hair raisingly long fast descents. Now my fan will be aware, that I love a fast descent, but at roughly 8 miles in is the cyclists dream downhill. Mucklow Hill between Brum and Halesowen. It’s about 15% of arse over the back wheel hands off the brakes “ yeh baby that’s what I like “ drop down, that is unless you have 8,000 or so terrified (and justifiably so) begginers grabbing hands full of brake on the steepest fastest line….mad!! But there were many more. You should only tackle hills like that with exceptionally good bike handling skills and frankly a good local knowledge of the roads. Many of the fast descents were on poorly maintained roads with a very sharp turn at the bottom.

That’s the route. To recap, Innacurate info on gradients and total climbing. Lunatic descents for the inexperienced. Bottlenecks that were inevitable on single track roads, most with at least one climb of between 2 and 5%.

The rest of it? Try this. The best part of an hours delay at the start. The reason, huge amounts of tacks strewn across the route along with oil, callously dumped on descents and thorns from hedges clearly from the day before. Ok. That sort of thing is not the fault of the organisers is it? Weeeell..yes, it is. Not the actual dropping of debris ofcourse, but when there had been so much opposition to the event…so strong that the route through Herefordshire and part of Worcestershire was eliminated. When I submit proposals for a 120 rider time trial, I have to provide the local police and Cycling Time Trials with a highly detailed risk assessment. I am then expected to recce the route early doors on the day of the event and quite rightly so. Ofcourse 100 miles is 75 miles longer than an inter club TT, BUT, They have a large staff and a huge budget, from entries and sponsorship, with a history of similar sabotage on other closed road Sportives, a small convoy of vehicles precededing the riders, could have cleared this away quite easily and with their boast of being the best ever, ought to have reckoned in their planning. It didn’t ofcourse, because like the London-Surrey it’s organised by people with no experience of organising a cycle event. Ask yourself the question why Human Race and U.K. CYCLING, to name two, manage to host Sportives by the dozen on open roads every weekend with barely a hitch. The answer is simple…EXPERIENCE. So forward planning and risk assessment were barely a consideration. The cash cow mentality won out.

The biggest complaint though in a list of horrendous cock ups was truly the most unforgivable. The later starting waves were quite simply “ effed over” when it came to food. I’d decided in advance to go until the 50 mile pit stop, with the lure of a sausage roll and a banana and maybe the much touted bacon rolls, even at the rumour 6 quid a pop. That and gels should’ve seen me through even with the hills to a creditable 7 hours. Except that there was nothing left. Not a gel, a piece of cake, a sausage roll. Or even a humble banana. There was food debris everywhere, but none for us….beyond disgusting, especially considering the entry fee and the quickly gleaned fact that the first feed stop had also run out before our small group had ridden past. The same story at the next one and both were filling peoples bidons from the overflow buckets….i kid you not.

VELO BIRMINGHAM, IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO RIDE 100 VERY STEEP MILES WITHOUT FOOD. A gel every mile or two is all very well, but those and my beloved Marks and Sparks Percy pigs ain’t enough fuel, beside which there is only so much of that stuff you can eat before you want to hurl. I hit the wall around mile 65, my average dropped from 15mph to just around 12, it was sheer bloody mindedness that kept me going, that and that alone. The last stop had managed to keep hold of bananas and cake …….yes. That stop was ( by then) sarcastically at the bottom of a 5-7%er.

God alone knows what time they opened the roads, but those of us determined to finish or bust, were on the receiving end of some close calls and abuse from previously penned in drivers, that for once I could sympathise with. We got our medals, despite being out of time…thanks to the boys and girls at the back of the by then closed N.I.A. For staying on with warm welcoming hugs, medals and much needed cool bottles of water.

My opposition to ride London-Surrey is well known, so you’d be forgiven for asking “why the hell did I ride this?” Put simply, optimism…yes, I know. Optimism that my native city would get it right. That and the fact that as well as it being the city I’m proud to have been born in, my Dad and Mom were very popular as Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress…it was a given that I had to ride it and if nothing else, the NSPCC will have the money I raised for them.

Were there any positives? Yes, the indomitable spirit of the British in adversity, the overwhelming support to get people through. The magnificent support from the local people all the way along the route. Calling out riders names….they’d printed them on our numbers. It got many weary souls to the top of many a climb that followed a sharp turn. People around me loved it.

“goo on bab. Yo can do it” “come on Mark nearly there cocker“

VELO BIRMINGHAM. You let my beloved city down. People who hate these hyper Sportives, here is one lifelong cyclist who feels that hyper Sportives harm the already  tarnished reputation of our sport and pastime badly. Look out, there is a petition coming when I can figure out who it should be addressed to. Oh, I nearly forgot. Thirty or so of us were locked out of the organised car park. An official got permission from the old Bill to cut the lock off after the owner refused a fee to keep it open or come and unlock it.

Jo Ann Carver

Jo Ann Carver

Cyclist, Actor & CyclingShorts.cc Writer

Jo Ann Carver is a 65 year old born again granny. She used to be known as Jon Carver and was on a failed mission to live and die as a man. She was the brains behind all of his successes and due to extreme boredom, fell asleep during his failures. She guided him through a moderately successful amateur racing career and later as the father of a European champion BMX racer and coach.

He has thanked her for  getting him through a degree in Drama and English and an M.A. in acting from Oxford. He’d have been lost without her emotional insight into all of the characters he has played on T.V. big screen & stage.

Jo will live her life doing what she loves best. Cycling and acting. She is the Secretary of Bedfordshire Road Cycling Club and lives with Carol her and Jon’s partner for 24 years and their LaChon Dog Wilf. Jon, having relinquished the body has gifted his bikes. Records, C.Ds and love of Jazz and Northern soul. He also gifted her his Alfa Romeo Spider, but did not give her any money to get work done on it.

She intends to carry on writing the same drivel for cycling shorts that he thought was his witty prose. Now though it will contain a lot more references to pink shoes. As she continues her journey via hormone replacement and surgery, she hopes you will come along with her as she pedals her way from bloke to the woman she should’ve always been.