Women's Road Racing

by Jimmy Ray Will   December 13, 2013  

Now I may be being slightly controversial here, but I have to say that support within women's road racing in the UK has increased significantly.

Whilst the number of domestic elite men's team are shrinking, indications suggest the ladies scene has grown significantly. To me this is a brilliant demonstration of the effectiveness of marketing. Women's road racing is getting a lot of publicity (even if this publicity is generally women moaning about a lack of support), and accordingly potential sponsors have been quick to the great potential value for money and have got their wallets out.

Whilst this is massively positive, I do believe there is one significant challenge still to overcome and that's in participation numbers. These are still incredibly small, and I can perceive a situation where every regular racing female will soon be a part of a supported team.

Is this good?

Yes and no. Yes, because it means women can race more and better events. No, because it makes the point of entry more daunting for those coming in to the sport. Your first event shouldn't really be against fully sponsored riders, even if they are only a third cat.

I guess what I am saying is that right now the industry is doing the easiest thing... chucking some money at women (to be fair this is what women have asked for), whereas I feel there needs to be more focus on actually bringing more people into the sport in the first place. Discuss IYCBA

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I don't think there's any issue with participation, a surprising amount of women are up for at least trying it once.

The hurdles in view of participation at the moment are mainly down to the fact that RR's are generally capped, and where they aren't - they're open to all categories. I've come across far too many races that have denied entry based on caps and in turn based on skill or league standings, the way it is for road racing at the moment is that it's just too difficult for 4th cats to get anywhere and this puts off and intimidates newcomers to the sport. Heather at CNDW is doing a magnificent job of turning this on it's head in the NW so hopefully that starts filtering around the country.

We need more races, or race splits, like them mens. Unfortunately this seems to have been a very slow uptake and is confined to very small areas of the country, making it very hard and laborious for lower cat ladies to get to the races they need to do to get points.

I think there are plenty of women wishing to participate, over the course of 2013 the number in racing and racing interest have increased phenomenally. This is not the problem, the problem is backing and this comes from both the fans AND the media. There is currently very little for race sponsors by way of publicity and this can only be improved if the races are taken up with the same enthusiasm as the mens.

We need people who want to watch, basically. When that improves there will be a bigger pot for us to do more with events for ALL skill levels. When that's available, there'd be absolutely no issue whatsoever with filling the slots. Trust me, there are more women who WANT to race than women who CAN.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
13th December 2013 - 14:22

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On the subject of fully sponsored riders, I'm not sure how this creates an issue. Women usually need a team to be able to enter events. Take myself, for an example, I've been racing with a club team this year but found I've been KB'd from countless races due to being a lone 4th cat. For 2014 I'll be racing for a domestic women's team which means I can enter leagues such as the team series which gives me a much wider opportunity to broaden my experiences.

Sponsorship of both teams and races is not a bad thing and I think team sponsorship should continue so more women are given more opportunities, even if it's just a club team, if a woman can get subsidised team kit (MASSIVE confidence booster) and entry into a greater range of races then this is no bad thing.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [542 posts]
13th December 2013 - 14:25

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Thank you for your comments, much appreciated. I think our points are both highlighting that there the challenge is getting women to race.. we just look at the solution differently

In the Southwest, things are progressing; for instance next years calendar has more women specific road races than events for E12 cat men.

The organisers are organising, but numbers riding are still low. I want to see decent events, with decent field numbers that encourage engaging racing.

I personally don't believe sponsoring riders is the best way to achieve this.

However, I don't propose to know what the answer is... yet.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [324 posts]
13th December 2013 - 14:51

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Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
Thank you for your comments, much appreciated. I think our points are both highlighting that there the challenge is getting women to race.. we just look at the solution differently

In the Southwest, things are progressing; for instance next years calendar has more women specific road races than events for E12 cat men.

The organisers are organising, but numbers riding are still low. I want to see decent events, with decent field numbers that encourage engaging racing.

I personally don't believe sponsoring riders is the best way to achieve this.

However, I don't propose to know what the answer is... yet.

Not a problem, it's a subject close to the heart what with being a bird who races 'n' all. I've not seen the full calendar for next year, only the country-wide events so I wouldn't be able to comment but coming from the NorthWest perspective we've a lot to focus on up here (well, not necessarily on the Isle of Man but then again I can just hop on a boat) - it's going to be a fantastic season.

There are more people organising great quality races, that undisputable of course but I really don't see there being so few women willing to participate, unless of course there is an issue with the way the races are done? Are they split appropriately? I know heaps of women from all ages and all skillsets that are simply dying to get out there and have a go but are just faced with constant hurdles.

Whats wrong with sponsored teams?

It's worked for the men, most clubs are sponsored, the only issue I see with that is that it becomes a culture. Which has whats happened for women, in that girls seem to need to be part of a team to get into good quality races. That culture needs to be kept but moderated appropriately.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [542 posts]
13th December 2013 - 15:07

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I'd still say speak to any figurehead in womens cycling both around Britain and the World and the song will ring true each time - our problem is with coverage, without that we have nothing, because money has to come from somewhere, sponsors have to come from somewhere - but they won't materialise without interest.

We need the media on our side and to date this has been abysmal.

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [542 posts]
13th December 2013 - 15:12

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There's so much money being thrown at women's racing, the Women's Tour of Britain doesn't yet have sponsor.
So much money that many international "professional" teams have riders with part time jobs.

posted by Owen Rogers [32 posts]
13th December 2013 - 15:20

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Owen Rogers wrote:
There's so much money being thrown at women's racing, the Women's Tour of Britain doesn't yet have sponsor.
So much money that many international "professional" teams have riders with part time jobs.

^^ I don't normally 'get' sarcasm but this is literally the statement of the day.

I get obscenely ranty about this, why the hell should world class athletes have to drive themselves to races, get changed at the side of the road and look forward to having to get up first thing the next day to go to work when their male counterparts get to lounge it up, have their feet rubbed and their tea made for them in a big swanky coach.

Somethings not right and it's certainly not participation levels that are causing it!

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [542 posts]
13th December 2013 - 15:38

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You're right, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, for which I apologise, but it is so wrong it is funny.

How about this one. The winner of the Giro d'Italia, Vincenzo Nibali won over €90k for his win; good on him. The winner of the women's race, won under €600.
The race has fewer stages each of reduced length, but that ain't fair.

The key is exposure, but while many outlets bleat about the lack of coverage, many of them won't cover it, none give it detailed coverage. It's got to start somewhere.

posted by Owen Rogers [32 posts]
13th December 2013 - 17:09

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Whilst I agree with the sentiments above... The top of the sport needs more coverage, the top riders better remuneration.
However, at a domestic level, does a third cat lady really need to have two bikes supplied, kit, races paid for etc etc.
Certainly this doesn't happen with the men.
I guess what is happening is that people are getting on the band wagon, but in the cheapest, easiest way possible.
And then there is the other elephant in the room... Coverage of women's racing, and the sporting spectacle it presents.
Now in theory, women's racing should make for great tv, shorter distances, and a smaller group of people that can actually win events. This should be gold dust, but it's frankly not (with a caveat that Nicole cooke's world champs win was probably one of the best races to watch anywhere). So why is this the case?
1. Women's racing is being judged with a contemporary, objective eye that men's racing side swipes through heritage.
2. That the courses used for women's racing are not designed to best showcase t women's style of racing.
Finally, what I will say is, don't think the men's scene is in any way rosey. A fair chunk of the domestic guys riding the tour of Britain were sat at an office desk the day following the London showdown. Also, ask tom southam who paid his 'salary' during his barloworld days.
I believe the reality is that outside the world tour, the men just shut up and take it. More fool them.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [324 posts]
14th December 2013 - 21:51

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I realise this might be controversial and I may get shot down but... With the momentum women's racing currently has I wouldn't be surprised if domestic support overtakes mens in the not too distant future.

With the likes of Laura Trott and co being household names riding for teams like Wiggle Honda it's a much more attractive marketing package to the masses. I appreciate the men's has some well known names but that side of the sport is dominated by Wiggo and co who don't race the domestic scene other than the TofB.

If the crit series continues to produce fantastic racing and manage to hold on to key riders the level of exposure is likely to increase. This should increase exposure, opportunities and support which will hopefully filter down as participation increases.

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:
However, at a domestic level, does a third cat lady really need to have two bikes supplied, kit, races paid for etc etc.

No one needs that but let's face it, we would if we could wouldn't we Smile If female riders manage to get full time careers out of the sport they're training will increase which will hopefully result in better sport.

My only fear in life is that in the event of my death, my wife will sell my bikes for what she thinks we paid for them.

posted by Velo-Chris [18 posts]
15th December 2013 - 21:16

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