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Source: The Times, by: Kati Jagger
Cycling changes gear as women take to the saddle.
They have been commuting in equal numbers for years, but the lure of lycra and the weekend group ride is something that women have until recently left mainly to the men.
All that is changing, and rapidly. As cycling in every form and for every reason has become more universally accepted, so women have become more open to cycling for cycling’s sake, and all the health benefits that go with it.
Bradley Wiggins’ exit from this year’s downpour-blighted Giro will do nothing to dampen the fervour for a pastime which has been reinforced by a string of successes. In the past few years we have witnessed the formation of a British-based Team Sky and Sir Bradley’s success in the Tour de France as well as his Olympic achievement, which only served to add to the domination of Sir Chris Hoy and Rapha Condor JLT’s Ed Clancy on the indoor track.
With this new surge in popularity has come a more subtle awakening, which is now taking on its own identity — many of these new road cyclists are women, and the sport at large is starting to pay attention. From spectacular performances at London 2012 by Lizzie Armitstead in the women’s road race and Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott, Dani King and Jo Rowsell of the women’s Olympic track team to growing ranks on the amateur level, women are emerging from backgrounds in other endurance sports, developing a more serious interest from consistent commuting, or using cycling as an introduction to fitness. The Boys Club of Road Cycling has suddenly seen the addition of women.
Certainly, however, the debacle over Peter Sagan’s questionable appreciation of the podium girl at the Tour of Flanders by pinching her bottom identified an issue which has always been present in professional sports — using the sex appeal of women as a reward for success. The most interesting part of this issue is that two years ago, it probably wouldn’t have made the news. With the increase of women in cycling has necessarily come a new voice in cycling journalism. We now have women covering the sport in a way that it hasn’t been previously. In short, more women are paying attention.
As a result, the audience for professional and amateur road cycling, while still firmly held in a male majority, is slowly acquiring a female contingent. Those who work in the industry are finding ways to incorporate women into road riding. Women’s clubs, aimed at growing the legion of new riders under the banner of inclusion, are springing up all around. Kent Velo Girls, one of the largest female UK cycling clubs, has seen rapid growth in the last year. Initiatives like the Rapha Women’s 100, aimed at getting thousands of women cycling 100km on July 7 in a show of solidarity for the sport, are gaining thousands of followers on social media. Established cycling clubs are seeing record numbers of women members, female-centric cycling blogs and websites continue to appear, and women’s cycling clothing is developing apace, all centred around women testing lungs and legs on two wheels.
In the way of cycling metaphors, women have formed a chase group and we are slowly closing the gap between them and the men of the peloton, eliminating along the way the boundaries formed by a traditionally male sport. The recent formation of the all-female Wiggle Honda professional cycling team, amongst others, has established small, albeit noticeable steps towards a more equal standing on the professional level. On the amateur level, women are finding themselves catching and keeping up with groups of men out for their weekend jaunt.
Kati Jagger is press officer for Rapha Racing. The brand has launched the Women’s 100, which encourages women to cycle 100 miles on July 7 for more information click here.
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