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Touchpaper: Calling Out Kennaugh

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Photographs: Marshall Kappel
Touchpaper: Calling Out Kennaugh

Today, Peter Kennaugh made a very bold claim about women’s cycling. This seems to be a very common trend at the moment –  most people commenting tend to regret what they said, too! Funny how he deleted his comments later. Here are the following tweets that have made me a very angry lady:
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How come he gets to be the judge of whether people know about it or not? Has he asked around? Was there a survey? And if so, why wasn’t I asked? The point is, don’t make claims you know absolutely nothing about, in order to prevent offending people. He later said “apologies to anyone I’ve offended.” Well, wait: why did you become a keyboard warrior if you’re going to back down and delete your tweets? I think it’s because he realised what an enormous group of fans and riders he enraged and let down.
Up until today, I really rated Kennaugh as a rider. Not that my opinion matters in the broad spectrum of things, but I feel quite heartbroken and let down by him. He’s an inspiration to many, young and old. Moreover, the top male riders forget what an enormous influence they have over the world of cycling. They have a lot of media coverage in comparison to the women, which means their voices and opinions are heard. Kids want to be like them, yet they’re being told that women’s racing isn’t something that matters as much as men’s. And in some cases, they’ll continue to hold this opinion.
But looking beyond all this, we have a serious problem. It’s become engrained in people’s minds that men’s racing is more popular and more widely talked about, and the women’s sport is just an afterthought. For example, lots of men’s races have women’s supporting races too. In some cases, it seems like these races only go ahead so that the organisers aren’t seen as sexist; they need a women’s race just to say that they’re promoting equality and doing the right thing. At high profile events, it’s common for the support events to be significantly shorter than the main race. I think any form of women’s racing is awesome, as obviously I do races like this and I cannot thank the organisers enough for all their work they put in. Women’s cycling has come such a long way thanks to people like this.
However, if equality was something etched into the minds of the public years ago, it’d be totally normal for women’s races to take place alongside men’s with equal social media coverage and in some cases, television coverage too. Furthermore, in an ideal world both races would get equal viewing figures and participation numbers; this is what we’re working towards.
Unfortunately, this isn’t happening – yet. From a young age, girls and boys are taught that yes, we can all do sport if we want. However, more little boys aspire to be football stars than girls, and more little girls want to be pop stars or celebs than boys (in my experience growing up). It seems to be part of people’s nature that boys do sport, and girls go and do something else. This has dramatically improved in recent years, and women’s cycling has grown exponentially. However, as male riders grow up, it seems like they’re the centre of attention for several reasons: 1) more boys race bikes than girls at the moment; 2) men’s racing is mostly faster than that of the women’s, therefore deemed ‘better’ (what a load of rubbish); 3) they receive more money and more TV coverage when they turn pro. And honestly, you can’t blame them for being 100 per cent focused on men’s cycling, as [it is] currently better-paid and regarded as more popular than the women’s sport by a lot of people, sadly. However, some of the top male riders support women’s racing, which is amazing, as they can provide it with so much extra publicity.
Women’s racing doesn’t need help from the men’s desperately – it’s doing pretty well on its own. The Womens Tour is going to be bigger and better than ever this year, the Tour de Yorkshire is providing a huge prize fund, and many Belgian races are now available to stream live online. Everything is going forward in the right direction, and I have never been prouder to say that I am a female cyclist for a team that has and will continue to support women’s cycling all the way.
The naivety of Kennaugh has given women’s cycling yet more publicity, in addition to the news that’s come spilling out of BC recently. If you haven’t ever been to watch a women’s bike race, just go and watch one! As the support grows, so will the sport. I am not saying I dislike men’s racing; I love watching it just as much as the women’s racing, as in my eyes, sport has no gender. I love cycling of any sort. However, what I do not appreciate is the sport star attitude adopted by some riders, who seem to pity women’s cycling and think they have complete control over its future. Well, you don’t. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean there aren’t thousands of people around the world that appreciate it.
313 races for Matrix Pro Cycling

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