Emma Pooley signals that she may retire from cycling

Olympian cites low pay and lack of women's teams, as well as focus on her PhD as reasons

by Sarah Barth   September 11, 2012  

Emma Pooley

Emma Pooley has given the strongest signal yet that she is considering ending her cycling career.

The 29-year-old rider, who missed out on a medal at this year's Olympics, coming sixth in the time trial, has recently had news that her team, AA Drink - Leontien.nl, will fold after the sponsors pulled out post-Games.

It's her second team to fold in as many years, after Garmin also dropped its women's squad.

Pooley, who is mid-way through a university doctorate, told BBC Radio Norfolk that she was undecided about her future.

"I don't want to race and race really badly, so it depends if I could find a time that would let me work around my PhD commitments, which I probably could, but I'm just not sure how I feel about it at the moment.

"I'm going to wait and see. At the end of the season, after the World Championships, it'll be a bit clearer in my head and I'll be able to make a decision," she said.

In complaints echoing with those of Sarah Storey in our interview yesterday, she said: "It's not that easy in the women's cycling scene because there aren't enough teams.

"Every year a team or two seems to go under, so every year there are always lots of good riders looking for places. I think I could find a team, I've talked to a few."

"If I was a male cyclist, I wouldn't have to work after I finish cycling," she said. "It's a bit like football. The wages are much higher, not at all levels, but, at the level I've got to in women's cycling, the disparity in pay is quite incredible."

But she added: "I'm not suggesting I should be paid millions. I'd like to have a useful, productive job when I've finished cycling."

15 user comments

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Thats a bit of an assumption re the male cyclists.

I am sure there are lads on the domestic scene that are going to have to work!

posted by Darthshearer [139 posts]
11th September 2012 - 14:43

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True, but Emma Pooley is a top international, former world champion and stage race winner. Palmares equivalent to almost any Brit male rider except maybe Wiggo or Cav.

posted by JonSP [38 posts]
11th September 2012 - 15:03

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Yes Darthshearer get your facts and cycling knowledge up to speed, you seem not to have even read the last comments in the article. Surprise

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posted by theclaw [75 posts]
11th September 2012 - 15:19

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it makes me angry that there's no minimum wage in women's road cycling and a talent such as Emma Pooley struggles to find a women's team that survives for more than a year. Don't hear much from Pat and the boys at UCI about this sad state of affairs.

Sudor

posted by Sudor [143 posts]
11th September 2012 - 18:03

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It's not hard to understand WHY women cyclists aren't able to get paid as much for racing as the men.

Quite simply it's because they're not as fast. Therefore it's not as exciting and so nobody wants to watch it. Then because less people are going to watch it sponsors won't make as much money out of it and so won't pay as much.

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posted by Municipal Waste [189 posts]
11th September 2012 - 18:53

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Fast is merely relative and it does not necessarily equate to exiting - You can't tell me hat the women's olympic road race was not great to watch - it was one of the few occasions when we were able to see any women's road racing on the TV at all.

Sudor

posted by Sudor [143 posts]
11th September 2012 - 18:59

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I tell you, if a PhD stipend rivals the funding available to women cyclists, the pay level is shocking!

posted by DNAse [21 posts]
11th September 2012 - 19:45

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It's a case of market forces - if people want to watch they'll pay and sponsors will follow. It will be the same as will disabled sport: once the euphoria of the Paralympics is over they will be back to performing in front of a handful of spectators and no tv cameras!

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posted by gb901 [90 posts]
11th September 2012 - 20:34

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gb901 wrote:
It's a case of market forces - if people want to watch they'll pay and sponsors will follow. It will be the same as will disabled sport: once the euphoria of the Paralympics is over they will be back to performing in front of a handful of spectators and no tv cameras!

"Supply and demand" is all well and good, but seeing as nobody has ever tried to supply it, how do they know what demand will be?

Stewie

posted by stewieatb [298 posts]
11th September 2012 - 20:50

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Sudor +1

Someone here previously suggested allowing points earned by women's teams to count on the men's UCI ranking. This could be a great way of encouraging women's racing.

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2303 posts]
11th September 2012 - 21:14

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Ah She's my new hero. Watching her in the Olympic road race was so inspiring. Powering up the hills. I hope she keeps on racing for a while longer. I'm an aging MTBer and looking to get my first road bike very soon. but finding it very sad how womens road racing is really pushed aside. Viva Women Roadies!

posted by Abbie [27 posts]
12th September 2012 - 0:57

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Surprised the pay is not better, it is all about making money, surely the larger of the untapped markets is the female market. To those who say it is not as exciting as the male equivalent, well it is not you they are targeting. It is to get the increasingly affluent female professional to part with their money on expensive sporting products. It is the flipside of how the cosmetic companies pursued the male market.

posted by surreyxc [41 posts]
12th September 2012 - 9:11

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surreyxc wrote:
Surprised the pay is not better, it is all about making money, surely the larger of the untapped markets is the female market. To those who say it is not as exciting as the male equivalent, well it is not you they are targeting. It is to get the increasingly affluent female professional to part with their money on expensive sporting products. It is the flipside of how the cosmetic companies pursued the male market.

Interesting point that - after all, the main reason bike companies get involved in men's racing is to sell bike stuff. So if the market for women's bike gear is very small, the manufacturers wont be so interested in spending money on it.

Then again, the majority of the sponsors (certainly at the top end) seem to be non-bike related - flooring, oil and gas, supermarkets, tv companies - so it's not automatic that they are put off by the smaller number of women cyclists. Surely it is just about audience size?

As was suggested above, audience sizes are chicken and egg, really - there's less interest in women's racing mainly because the coverage is so poor, and because there isnt much interest, the coverage stays poor. Part of the fun of road racing is the story of the race and the politics between the characters involved. If publicity is very poor, even when a race is shown most people don't know the participants - so they can't get into it in quite the same way. The Olympic road race was a great example of the story - lots more publicity for the race, meaning lots more knowledge about the riders, and then a great battle unfolding in the race which people could get involved in. Women's racing does tend to be more open than the men's and that can make for very exciting racing.

Bottom line is, women's road racing could be much bigger and attract more money than it does, if it wasn't starved of publicity. If the UCI could bring itself to try and push women's racing in the same way it is pushing men's racing into new territories, they might actually manage to get people excited about it and bring the sport up a level.

posted by step-hent [580 posts]
12th September 2012 - 9:39

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As a male cyclist (mamil), I for one really enjoyed watching the Olympic womens road race and found it comparable if not more entertaining than the mens race. ITV4 could probably do more to promote womens cycling. An example is last years tour series where they only showed a few minutes of the womens races but all of the mens race. Everyone is trying to get more women onto their bikes, so lets give them something to aspire to. Hopefully a new series of The Cycling Show will have more female specific articles.

posted by Andy P [10 posts]
12th September 2012 - 11:25

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Women's racing is great to watch - it's fast, plenty of attacks and lots going off, much less of a procession that men's racing can be.

As for the UCI, tather than trying to spread cycling to the outer reaches of god knows where, they should be aggressively promoting women's cycling in the US and Europe - there is a huge market for it. Look at the number of women joing cycling clubs, picking u pthe cycle to work scheme and seeing Emma and the gilrs winning.

As Jeff Banks said on the Cycle Show, making a very valid point, businesses in female specific markets such as make up houses etc should be putting money into this sport, not pratting around and throwing wedges of cash at models who look like they died but forgot to lie down (I paraphrase Big Grin )

posted by Nevis the cat [9 posts]
13th September 2012 - 8:56

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