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Silver medal winner makes comments on eve of her Time Trial

As the women in Team GB prove their worth yet again with a gold medal (finally!) in the women's rowing pairs, Lizzie Armitstead, silver road race winner, has spoken out about the 'overwhelming sexism' in sport.

It's a valid point - the Tour de France is all about the men, who benefit from the vast sums of money sunk into teams like Team Sky - and look who actually rode to victory when Olympic crunch time came around.

The Times (£) reported on how Japanese women footballers and the Australian women's basketball team had to travel to London in economy seats while the men put their feet up in business class.

“It can get overwhelming and frustrating, the sexism I’ve experienced in my career,” said Armitstead.

“If you focus on it too much you get very disheartened.”

Emma Pooley has also voiced similar concerns about the visibility of women's cycling.

In the Guardian, she said: "A lot of women's teams you're lucky if they buy you a sandwich at the race… sponsors keep pulling out of races so they get cancelled… the calendar has been more than decimated.

"I get enough to live off, better than most women in the sport. The depressing thing is that there is so much money in cycling but it all stays in one bit of the sport, not much of it trickles down."

Armitstead even said that she wanted to bring up the subject with Pat McQuaid, UCI president, but "didn't want to come across as negative and moaning".

Well Lizzie, we think he might just sit up and take notice of you now.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

39 comments

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mikroos [257 posts] 3 years ago
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With all due respect for her and her efforts, why doesn't she simply understand that the amount of money flowing from sponsors is directly related to popularity of the sport? If only people actually wanted to watch women's cycling, I'm sure she would be earning twice as much as now or even more.

It's got nothing to do with sexism or hostility towards women, it's just a matter of popularity and business.

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waveydavey [7 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

It's got nothing to do with sexism or hostility towards women, it's just a matter of popularity and business.

Does that statement infer there is an inherent problem in society?

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Mountainboy [96 posts] 3 years ago
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Yeah and if you think back to the women's road race it was boring wasn't it...

No, it was every bit as good (better) than the men's. I'd watch that every day if I could.

Time for broadcasters to step up and give more people the opportunity to watch women's sport.

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Carvers [36 posts] 3 years ago
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i would personally watch any womens cycling events as avidly as I would the mens event (including Giro or TdF) so I really wish that Sky or ITV or C4 poick up the rights to the Giro Donne or La Grand Boucle now that it's getting such good exposure at London 2012.

Agree re the Rapha comment thereandbackagain, they really do seem to be the only "mainstream" company to treat womens cycling as a complete and logical equal rather than the normal almost niche approach that a lot of the industry sway towards (and that's sadly if they stray that way at all). Wait to see their upcoming Giro Donne film too, that should be a good example of their approach to all of this.

So in general, just please please please, put more cycling - and specifically more womens cycling - on the box...please!!

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
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So Lizzie Armstead has won a medal so now every cycling related company should be awash with big money orders from females wanting to "spend, spend, spend"?

So why didnt it happen with VP?

My reasoning is that women haven't taken to cycling in the same way as blokes have, most of my mates that I talk to would love to cycle for its fitness benefits and usually the parts of the body that it tones up but none of them like the idea of actually being on a bike mere inches from an uncaring and unflinching Germanic crushing machine.

As I said, this is just from talking with my friends/friends girlfriends/girlfriends friends etc so I may just have encountered a group of people that co-incidentally have the same fears but my gut feeling is that the reason women haven't taken to riding is more to do with safety and lack of provision for cyclists in this country than it is to do with the styling of products related to cycling.

That's what really needs to be addressed first.

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thereandbackagain [172 posts] 3 years ago
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Hogwash, mikroos.

It's a commercial enterprise, that's for sure, but there's a market there to be opened up, expanded and promoted. Once you grow the overall pie, there's more to go around.

It's a vicious circle at the moment. Most bike & equipment manufacturers really don't appear to understand female cyclists at all. They take the approach of "shrink it and pink it" - which is pathetic. Women don't like what's offered, and don't buy it.

Rapha (cue hissing from some of the readers, no doubt) get it. I think women are possibly more willing to pay for quality, as they've not had years of expectations of crappy, stinky, nylon & lycra junk forced on them. And say what you like about Rapha, they were founded on identifying a completely new area of cycling products that no-one else had targeted, and have done very well out of it. Why can't they do it again?

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thereandbackagain [172 posts] 3 years ago
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I think safety and lack of provision is a very valid concern, amongst many barriers.

Another is how do you actually get into sports riding? There seems to be a pattern of female riders having transferred from other athletic activities, triathlon being quite common, at least in my experience.

It's probably going to be a generational thing. Consistent support and opportunity will be needed to shift perceptions long-term. Heroic moments are a help, but ongoing opportunities to enjoy riding are the key to making a change.

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Simon E [2722 posts] 3 years ago
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Change is long overdue.

Good points made by thereandbackagain. I wonder what percentage of Rapha clothing stock (also Altura etc) is bought by women.

I know that financial issues mean there has been some contraction in the sport e.g. Garmin and HTC teams disbanding but that situation could be remedied with some effort. Sky has enough money to field a women's team (as do others) and there is no shortage of British road racing talent these days. The Johnson Healthcare races at Tour series were very popular and, a point I've read previously, who would complain about seeing attractive young women whizzing about on bicycles?

News websites and magazines need to make more effort too - they already have some clout and where one leads others will follow. Also, if women cyclists are treated like sportswomen instead of 'dollies on bikes' than maybe mainstream interviews will focus on more interesting topics rather than avoiding 'helmet hair', how they manage to pee and so on.

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nuclear coffee [209 posts] 3 years ago
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If you like. Or it's biology.

People tend to watch the best in any given area of sport, and women are less likely to be the best - in some sports (e.g. weightlifting), because of basic physiology, in others (e.g. motorsport) because you need investment/encouragement from an early age and parents are less likely to give that to girls because it's simply less likely to occur to them that their daughter could be world champ some day, so it's self-reinforcing.

You can either have a sport open to men and women will almost never rise to the top - or separate, you have prominent women athletes, but a smaller audience because you don't have the best.

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farrell [1950 posts] 3 years ago
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thereandbackagain wrote:

Another is how do you actually get into sports riding?

My thought is that you get people on to bikes first, make it something people "do" and the sporting interest will naturally follow.

I'd kicked a football around long before I got my first kit or boots or had even seen a football pitch.

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SammyG [274 posts] 3 years ago
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on the roadCC strava group there are 95 members and 1 is female.

Having said that I did enjoy watching the womens road race just as much as the mens, and would watch womens racing if they broadcast it more often.

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sparrow_h [35 posts] 3 years ago
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I would watch womens cycling just as happily as mens. However I am not given the opportunity as there is very very little womens sport on tv outside of the olympic games. I dont think I am the only one who feels this way, who is making this decision for us?

As for the 'biology' argument (nuclear coffee- "People tend to watch the best in any given area of sport, and women are less likely to be the best"), a race is a race, and when it is between a bunch of highly skilled and well-trained athletes at the top of their game it is always going to be interesting, whether they are male or female or juniors or lightweights.

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Blackhound [439 posts] 3 years ago
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So where are all the women agreeing or otherwise on this thread? I am afraid cycling is a male dominated sport. I was at La Marmotte a few weeks ago (spectating) and very few women were riding, so not just a British issue.

There was a women's only race near here a few yearts ago, very few spectators. A lot of change is required before women get anything like equal opportunities.

To re-phrase a line in twentytwelve recently 'men like bikes* and men like women, so why don't they like women on bikes'

* football was original quote

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themartincox [499 posts] 3 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

Change is long overdue.

who would complain about seeing attractive young women whizzing about on bicycles?

Also, if women cyclists are treated like sportswomen instead of 'dollies on bikes' than maybe mainstream interviews will focus on more interesting topics rather than avoiding 'helmet hair', how they manage to pee and so on.

I am presuming that Simon E is male, rather than Simone which isn't, and I would hazard a guess and say that its the first part of your comment that can put females off of cycling. As body conscious as males are in lycra, I think it pales when compared with womens thoughts and as long as they are even viewed in a pseudo-sexual nature rather than as people/athletes then a great big swathe of them will be put off riding - hence the popularity of female only gyms etc.

its the same as the females athletes being called girls on TV, whereas you would never hear the males being called boys - we really have to look at all the areas that act as barriers towards greater participation and sadly sexism in its myriad forms is a huge one of them!

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Campag_10 [153 posts] 3 years ago
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Based on Sunday's road race, women's cycling makes for great watching. If it was available regularly with good timing, commentary and analysis then I'd watch it.

There's probably an opportunity for one of the lower profile channels to pick up on the appetite for cyclesports on TV as Five did with away Europa League matches over the last few years.

Whilst earnings from their teams may not be fantastic, I'm sure VP does very well indeed from her modelling and endorsements.

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Sarah Barth [86 posts] 3 years ago
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Where are all the women? Well, a very keen female cyclist wrote the piece in the first place...  3

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Sudor [186 posts] 3 years ago
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Lizzie et al have a point

If Pat McQuaid and his pals at UCI spent as much time, effort and cash on promoting women's cycling in its cultural heartland as they do in their attempts to take cycling to countries that don't appreciate (e.g tour of China) we'd see a more vibrant women's cyclng scene. Same for TV coverage - no one can tell me the women's Olympic road race wasn't as interesting/exiting to watch as the mens - the lack of exposure and coverage is a scandal.

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dullard [140 posts] 3 years ago
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Nuclear Coffee has a point. The women's race was great but it was not men's racing. I'm a great supporter of Armitstead, but women's cycling doesn't get the blood bumping like men's does. It isn't as fast or edgy and, therefore, as popular to watch. In the same way that women's football is not men's football. You can say that's because of money, but that's being disingenuous. It's down to speed and power, risk taking etc, which is what men have and do more of than women. Apart from in the case of teenage swimmers from China, of course.

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OmegaPharmaSlow... [9 posts] 3 years ago
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Surely the reasoning behind not placing the largest numerically valued team in business class is more of a case of lack of seats and/or price, as opposed to blatant and unrelenting sexism?

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fatbeggaronabike [815 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree with a lot of the comments on here, 1, it is a circular thing if more was shown on TV then more support would follow. 2, Safety and preceived threat again circular arguement (some people disagree with the CTC on the safety in numbers to me that sounds completely logical) 3, and possible the biggest & as already mentioned women (I can't think of a way of saying this next bit that isn't going to sound sexist) do have concerns over their appearrance being in skintight lyca whilst straining and sweating on a bike is not a flattering look. 4, sponsorship this has got to be a fantastic PR exercise for some companies.
Personally I hope there is a way to encourage more women into cycling but I'm not clever enough to know what the answer is.

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WolfieSmith [1323 posts] 3 years ago
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Armistead is spit in and right to use her exposure to stick the boot in over this issue. There needs to be more women's sport on TV full stop. I'd love to see the women's TDF on TV - so would my wife and daughter. Not only would it give women cyclists the exposure they deserve but it might boost club numbers. We currently have 3 women in our road club - out of almost 100 members.. The youngest was 2nd in the BW CX league last year and one of the seniors has won the Eddie Soens and the other taken part twice in the women's TDF. We have no women that just ride for fun and club sexism aside it's the lack of public exposure for potential role models that is fundamental in keeping women out of cycle clubs.

After Nicole Cooke won in Bejing I hoped for a new attitude to wonen's cycling and more coverage. I worry that by Christmas Armistead will be forgotten and no changes made.

Eurosport calls itself 'The home of cycling' but it's support of men's cycling is patchy and women's pretty much none existant.

A channel educated purely to cycling is what's needed and it may not be far off.

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Fran The Man [81 posts] 3 years ago
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Someone here says: "Based on Sunday's road race, women's cycling makes for great watching. If it was available regularly with good timing, commentary and analysis then I'd watch it."

I couldn't agree more. Sunday's race was enthralling and, perhaps because of not despite the rain, dramatic.

And although one has to allow for "the Olympic effect", there were thousands of enthusiastic spectators along the route – even on the Fulham Road, where I was.

I think there is an interest in women's cycling and I hope Lizzie A can do something – if not now, then when she's retired – to help make it even more popular, and better funded.

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Ciaran Patrick [116 posts] 3 years ago
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There would be a massive market if it was promoted but it is not promoted anywhere especially by those that run women's cycling. Same really. I agree with fran, male or female if it is set up like the men I would watch it. Sundays race was great

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Tomabbott [10 posts] 3 years ago
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Looking at the magazine racks I can't recall the last time cycling plus/cycling week etc had a woman on the front. Cycling active regularly do. I think I scanned the cover of C+ and had to go back 3 years or so.

You do get a much better balance online.

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mikroos [257 posts] 3 years ago
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@thereandbackagain

How about you actually determine the number of women taking up pro or club cycling (or even training seriously) and women watching sports? Both are MUCH, MUCH lower than the number of man in each of these categories.

I happen to work in a bike shop and what I can say is that about 90% of my customers are men. How can you expect sponsors to invest their money in women's cycling then?! Please bear in mind that the prices of equipment and other costs related to sponsoring are about the same in women's and men's cycling, so the return of investment is much lower in women's cycling.

Like I said, this has nothing to do with any kind of hostility. It's just a simple and measurable fact that the women's sports market is way smaller.

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Will Steed [48 posts] 3 years ago
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The only way to solve this problem is to get tv coverage. Tv coverage will bring in sponsers which results in more money to the sport. It will never be as big as mens cycling due to the history of mens cycling. There is a place for womens cycling on tv and it needs the likes of eurosport to give it a go. Plus women look hot in lycra.

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markrjl [18 posts] 3 years ago
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I was in London for both races. I have 2 young girls, both cycle to primary school and sometimes further. They enjoyed the Women's road race best. They were impressed that our first olympic medal was won by a woman. They enjoyed the time trials today and noticed that both our female cyclists did better than Vos. They understand Wiggins is exceptional. Their interest in competitive cycling has gone from zero to keen in the space of a few days. They now have role models for the future should they wish to compete. With the popularity of cycling increasing generally it is up to all of us to keep the pressure up for anything that will allow our sport/hobby/preferred mode of transport to flourish for the benefit of all.

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jamjam [61 posts] 3 years ago
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Part of the reason why it is smaller I think is because for top end sport, people want to see world records and things like that, and in cyclings case, this can be provided by men more than women due to natural body size/shape etc. also, in my experience of watching womens cycling, they don't look as smooth or graceful in general as the men, although in fairness this wasn't a problem on sunday.
but I think the main thing based on what people i know say is that people would prefer to watch something for outright speed etc., particularly if they don't take part in the sport or know much about it, because it looks more exiting.

on the other hand, i get the impression that womens gymnastics is more popular than mens because women can perform at a higher level to men as they are naturally more graceful and more suited to that activity.

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jamjam [61 posts] 3 years ago
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Another way to promote it would be go get lots of the women's names out there and get them known. lots of the people who don't do cycling are liking watching it because of "wiggo" and having a name like that seems to help spread the sport. i didn't know any of the women at the start of the road race, but by the time trial when i knew them, the race became much more interesting for me somehow.

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mbrads72 [181 posts] 3 years ago
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Go on the Olympic ticketing website and search for any available tickets. Almost everything left is a women's sport. It certainly seems people want to watch men's sport more than women's.

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