Eyes wide shut?
We were blessed with two major bike races at once on British roads last week – the Giro start in Northern Ireland and the inaugural Women’s Tour on the mainland.
Both were great successes, the women’s race especially capturing the public’s attention in a big way. It was surely a game changer after so many years living in the shadow of blokes on bikes. Or, let’s be honest, totally eclipsed – as the excellent José Been pointed out on TV highlights, maybe 20 women make a so-so living out of pro racing. The rest are riding for bikes, jerseys and peanuts.
The equal prize money on offer in last week’s five-stage race to the men’s Tour of Britain is a good start and a positive message. Mick Bennett and his Sweetspot organisation are to be congratulated.
The standard lines trotted out (off the record) by male cycling journalists over the years – that women’s racing is “dull” and “negative”, and they “can’t handle their bikes” – has been shown up for the sexist claptrap it undoubtedly is. This was full-on racing, with just as many spectacular crashes and mad skills as the men's pro game. Nobody pulled up Dan Martin for decking it at the weekend, did they?
How else to make a statement that women mean business? The contrast between podiums at the two races provide a clue – no glamour girls required to pose for photographers at any stage from Northampton to Bury St Edmunds, while the Big Start’s opening event outside Belfast City Hall resembled an Issey Miyake runway show.
The only glamour girls required at the Women’s Tour were in the race – dedicated athletes doing what they do best; sisters doin’ it for themselves, to quote Annie Lennox. There may well be a subtext to that lyric far too subtle for our neanderthal brains, but you get the idea.
We’ve nothing against gorgeous women – heck, some of us at Rouleur Towers even live with them – but when used for decorative purposes and no more, it sends out the wrong message. The thousands of young girls waiting in the rain to meet and greet their heroes at the Women's Tour deserve better.
Peter Sagan’s infamous bum-pinching furore at last year’s Ronde was sexual harassment, nothing less, and is not an isolated incident.
Surely the time has come to end this cringe-inducing, outmoded custom? It may be a while before the Giro and Tour de France organisations get the message, but this year’s Tour of Britain could lead the way here.
How about it?
“I’ll tell you a secret: I always wanted to stand in the rain with a great looking lady holding an umbrella for me… #giro #magliarossa”
See above, Marcel.
STATS THE WAY, UH HUH UH HUH, WE LIKE IT
5 – Number of days holiday booked by our Andy McGrath this week
125 – Number of days holiday before he returns, according to his out of office reply: November 11.
End-to-end record holder Eileen Sheridan (issue 33) in training. “No wonder she wins races – she has to, to get back in time to catch up with the housework.” Oh dear.
The incomparable Marianne Vos smashing it on the ice in Louisville, 2013.
Beryl Burton, hitting out for 21 solo miles for the World Championship title. True Yorkshire grit.
April 30: Nibbali Wibbali
April 16: Silly Season
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