Lizzie Armitstead: I’m disappointed in Brian Cookson

Calls on next elected UCI president to force men’s World Tour teams to invest in a women’s squad

by Sarah Barth   September 22, 2013  

Lizzie Armitstead wins 2013 nats road race (picture Alex Whitehead:SWPIX.COM)

 

Lizzie Armitstead has spoken of her ‘disappointment’ in the UCI presidential candidate Brian Cookson, for failing to do more for women’s cycling.

The Olympic road race silver medallist  and British national champion says that Cookson has not addressed her and other female road cyclists’ concerns about sexism in the sport, accusing him of only listening to track riders including Jo Rowsell and Laura Trott, whose track careers do not face the same limitations.

She told the Observer: "I'm disappointed because I sat down and spoke to Brian [Cookson]. I think he's a good bloke but I pulled out of a race this week [the Tour of Tuscany] because we were facing open traffic and then to read there aren't issues in women's cycling ... I have no problem with equality on the track but I am a road rider and it is very, very different."

These issues, she said, were highlighted in the Tuscan Tour, where the major teams chose to boycott the final stage over safety issues - halving the field of riders.

She explained: "It was scary. We were going between two lines of traffic as if we were commuting, but with numbers on our backs. There was a protected window for the break of six – everyone else had to fend for themselves."

It’s the second situation of its kind this season, with Armistead’s Boels-Dolman team and Marianne Vos’s Rabobank pulling out of the Tour of Languedoc earlier this year, again over safety concerns.

Armitstead said: "There are some races that should not be allowed to go on in this way. I don't know what goes through the minds of the organisers. Tuscany is a memorial race for Michaela Fanini, who was killed by a car. It's been going 15 years so it's a lot of commitment from the organisers, but I don't understand what has to be explained."

Following the Tuscan Tour pullout, Vos tweeted: "Quitted #GiroToscana as a protest against dangerous race situations in previous stages. Tough decision while in the lead, but safety first!"

Lauren Kitchen, who rides for Wiggle-Honda, added: "No start today in Toscana. Safety needs to assured before we can race."

Armitstead's comments come in the wake of a Guardian interview with Brian Cookson, in which he said of Nicole Cooke, who criticised the lack of support she had receieved from British Cycling:

"Nicole has her point-of-view on lots of things and she didn't always see eye-to-eye with British Cycling.

"But we went out of our way to support her in the best way we could. Elite athletes are interesting, aren't they? They have personalities that are sometimes difficult to handle – and Nicole is one of those people who has a particular view of things which she's absolutely entitled to."

It's disconcerting how many other prominent women – Victoria Pendleton, Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armitstead – have also criticised British Cycling. "That's true. But if you speak to Laura Trott or Jo Rowsell you'll hear another view."


It’s not only Cookson and British Cycling Armitstead has beef with. She has called on both the UCI presidential candidates, Pat McQuaid and Brian Cookson, to commit to forcing men’s World Tour teams to sponsor a women’s squad.

It is, she said, far more achievable than anyone seems to think.

She said: "Teams like Sky or any ProTour team are putting in over €10m: it would take about €500,000 to run a women's team. That would allow more women to be full-time professionals and the level will increase within a year."

She’s disappointed too in Sir Dave Brailsford and Sky Pro Cycling, who refused to invest in a women’s Sky team - despite Cookson lobbying for it.

"They should have done it. Great Britain is one of the leading cycling nations in the world and it would have been great if they had set an example. But you have to be realistic. Cycling is a business. Unless rules are in place to make sure they invest, they won't do it."

It’s not all doom and gloom for Armitstead however. With the news that the Tour of Britain intends to upgrade its women’s involvement from a one-hour criterium this year to a five-day women’s Tour next May - she’s encouraged, having spent the months since her Olympic success pushing, along with other women cyclists, for a women’s Tour de France.

She said: “If there is a women's Tour of Britain next season I would base half my year around trying to win it."

Lizzie Armitstead and Emma Trott are among the six Boels-Dolmans riders who will take part in the World Championship team time trial - open to trade teams - in Tuscany today.

31 user comments

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He's still the head of BC, and she has a legitimate gripe.

posted by RAds [11 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 10:56

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Quite how women would 'do it for themselves' when racing is controlled at pro level by the UCI I'm not sure.

If the UCI commit to a coherent women's season and a couple of pro teams commit to investing in women's squads then televisation of the women's giro will follow and cash for women's racing will expand.

Good for Armistead. Call them to account before they have time to slack I've heard no details from Cookson except criticism of feisty young hot heads like Nicole Cooke. As an emotional athlete what does she know about cycling? Thinking

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 11:23

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What comes first, the investment in the teams for sponsorship return, or the races that draw crowds for the sponsorship to be viable?

Forcing larger team sponsors to spend on a women's team while accepting that the women's team needs a small fraction of the budget seems counter-productive. Surely it needs a platform where bigger investment is an attractive proposition to sponsors.

Maybe Brian Cookson needs some time to sort out the UCI mess and address the current issues before putting this in place is possible. Not saying it's not an issue, just that there may be a lot of dodgy goings on that need clearing out before serious investment in women's racing will get a fair hearing. I hope it does, to me racing is nothing to do with higher average speeds and everything to do with spirited attitudes and bold moves from riders and I see plenty of that in women's racing, on or off-road.

posted by james-o [188 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 11:48

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
I think this is pretty shameless. Have a pop before he's even been voted in.

Plus if women want women's cycling to succeed why do they need to piggy back off the men? Why don't they do it for themselves? Men's cycling hasn't required women's cycling, so why do they need the men's support? Perhaps they want to be patronised.

It is like women's professional football and basketball. It would be pretty much unsustainable if they weren't affiliated with the men's team.

It needs support from both the organising bodies and sponsors, and men's sport has had that for years. Something that already has good visibility will attract sponsors and continue to do so.

As far as women's football is concerned, it was popular during/after the first WW - one match in 1920 had a 53000 spectator turnout.
In 1921 the FA banned them from using Football League grounds. In 1969 the WFA was established, took til the 90s for the F A to get involved again - it's not exactly surprising that its lacked the support received by the men's side of the sport

posted by JonD [177 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 12:24

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First comment shows the difficulties women's cycling have to face: blinkered and self-centred attitude.

Cookson is supposed to be revitalising cycling? Not if the views expressed here are typical of his general attitude.

posted by paulfg42 [374 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 13:59

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Quick question:

If Pat McQuaid gets re-elected, will the UCI not forcing the current men's teams to set up women's teams still be Brian Cookson's fault?

posted by farrell [1325 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 14:52

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farrell wrote:
Quick question:

If Pat McQuaid gets re-elected, will the UCI not forcing the current men's teams to set up women's teams still be Brian Cookson's fault?


Yes, as it is an idea he dismissed (along with a minimum wage) in his current role as President of the UCI Road Commission. If Brian wants include Womens' Cycling promotion as a manifesto pledge, it is only right that he should answer the question "well what have you done so far?"

(Still better than Pat though.)

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 15:48

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paulfg42 wrote:
First comment shows the difficulties women's cycling have to face: blinkered and self-centred attitude.

Cookson is supposed to be revitalising cycling? Not if the views expressed here are typical of his general attitude.

This.

posted by northstar [1086 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 21:16

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
I think this is pretty shameless. Have a pop before he's even been voted in.

Plus if women want women's cycling to succeed why do they need to piggy back off the men? Why don't they do it for themselves? Men's cycling hasn't required women's cycling, so why do they need the men's support? Perhaps they want to be patronised.

It is like women's professional football and basketball. It would be pretty much unsustainable if they weren't affiliated with the men's team.

Feeling a bit sorry for Mrs. Colin. Sad Do you have any daughters? Do they deserve an even break or a level playing field or is it just hard luck that they live in a man's world? Maybe they should just get their heads down and just hope that they marry well.

Have a read of the speech that Nicole Cooke made at the press conference announcing her retirement if you want to find out about 'doing it for themselves.' Nicole Cooke really did do it for herself. The obstacles she faced at a junior level were ridiculous. She was a pioneer and a hugely successful one at that but there is a very long way to go before women are treated equally to men in competitive cycling. Why do you think that they are not worth it?

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [307 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 21:46

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So what do people expect by plowing money into it? The problem is that the return for sponsors has never been great from women's sport. If the ultimate goal is to increase women's participation then there are other ways of doing this. Effectively the numbers have to be there and this is not limited to women's sports either.

Like so many women's sports, beyond repeated efforts to kick-start the sport they fall flat because interest wanes. For these things to be successful they should be self sustaining.

I wonder how many people have sought out paraolympian events post-Olympics? I wonder how many of you were disappointed when the teams pulled out of the women's Tour of Tuscany? So beyond writing right-on comments about women's sports how do you actively show your on-going interest and commitment to women's sports? Seems even Road.cc only pays it lip service by reporting Armitsteads comments rather the results of the women's races.

I think more women should be encouraged to participate in sport, be competitive and enjoy being healthy. But I bet when you look deeper into the costs and problems faced by BC and even the UCI, the budgets are not there. After all in the case of the Tour of Tuscany, it is not that the problem is getting teams to compete, but the costs of running the event on closed roads. Do you spend your budget on things which actively encourage cycling (at all levels) or just those elite women?

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1092 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 2:07

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"Elite athletes are interesting, aren't they? They have personalities that are sometimes difficult to handle – and Nicole is one of those people who has a particular view of things which she's absolutely entitled to."

Let's imply that she's a bit weird, while being both patronising and nominally defending her right to be that bit weird.

Anyone who thinks there aren't more hurdles for women than men needs to get out more. If pro cycling is nominally about marketing products, then the makers should realise that there are a lot of women out there making purchasing decisions. Early adopters of women's teams could do well.

Gerard the Kiwi

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posted by GerardR [84 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 6:29

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So with, at the current count, three men's teams dropping this year, Europcar always on the edge and even "big" teams like Saxo struggling for money, where will the funds come from for the compulsory women's teams?

Perhaps there needs to be encouragement or incentive to do it rather than just obligation. If it's only world tour teams that would be forced to do it, some of the smaller teams would never make that step up to World Tour as finding an extra 5-10% of their budget would be a problem.

posted by atlaz [152 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 6:45

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It's a viscous circle - sponsors want exposure, so without TV/media coverage there's little point in promoting an event that only a man and his dog is watching. Obviously, if World Tour race events were encouraged to include a women's race in the programme, then it would be a good starts - there are Fleche Wallonne and Tour of Flanders races on the same day as the men's race.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [358 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 8:13

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Womens cycling is exciting and its a snip for sponsors. Lets hope the TOB initiative is a success and others follow suit.

posted by NeilXDavis [111 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 9:42

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
So what do people expect by plowing money into it? The problem is that the return for sponsors has never been great from women's sport.

Nail, head.

Cooke, Armitstead and others can complain all they like but they can't change commercial reality. There are very few women's sports which provide a justifiable return on investment.

It isn't just a question of media exposure it's a question of audience. In general women consume less sport than men and they aren't particularly interested in women's sport.

So what does a sponsor get ? The same people they've already reached by supporting men's sport, but in smaller numbers and with less frequency.

Quite how that's Brian Cookson's fault is beyond me.

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posted by abudhabiChris [499 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 10:59

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What does a sponsor get? They get their name linked with something that isn't widely perceived as being rife with dopers. Why do you think Rabobank are still happy for Marianne Vos to wear their logo, even though they've pulled out of the Men's side of the sport?

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 11:41

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This is horrendous. On the subject of Tuscany and safety - these are world class athletes, comparable in skill, training and dedication to Cav, Cancellara etc, different only in gender. Why the hell should they have to put up with this when not one of their male counterparts would have to have any doubt over event planning of this kind.

Also, the UCI seemingly refused to put up any live coverage of this event - it was only covered, online, by RAI sport - great if you speak fluent Italian.

It's disgusting that this is still happening after the last few years and infuriates me to the point of combustion. Watching poorly filmed home videos of international grand tours (women's, of course) - where the stars are getting changed in the back of hire cars that they drove there themselves and making up their own bottles from water bought at local newsagents. While the equivalent men's teams warm up under parasols held up by apprentices while international television agencies interview them and their coaches carefully monitor every inch of their anatomy before they set off.

There is NO excuse for this divide, not to this degree.

If I ever have chidren, and if I ever had a girl and a boy and both are budding cyclists like their parents - when I ask them of their aspirationas and they both alike answer "to be professional cyclists" - why should I have to tell one that she'll have to think about a "real" career as women cannot sustain a permanent lifestyle out of being a pro female, whereas her brother would enjoy the benefits of an almost rock-star like life. Why does this even need to be part of the conversation? Why do I have to kill a childs aspirations in one sentence purely because of this unecessary inequality!?

The only thing my brain wants to know is "why?", because as yet no reasonable explanation as to why all of this is still a problem in our sport has been given.

Sorry for the rant but I race with a few junior girls here who are well on their way to superstardom, but knowing that once they hit my age (mid-twenties) - they will probably have to sacrifice most of their training time for a full time job to support themselves, it's more than saddening. It's literally heartbreaking.

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]
23rd September 2013 - 12:49

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Oh and on that rant, monetary return via media coverage is only an issue because the media don't, not can't, cover womens races. The problem is that the likes of the UCI and British Cycling do not do anything to prevent the media from taking such a biased and unfair standpoint. There's no need not to film something thats happening at the same time, in the same place, it's just they don't want to because of the existing stigma around women doing sports.

"Get back in that kitchen." That's all this is.

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]
23rd September 2013 - 12:52

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It kind of sums up the UCI's approach to women's cycling that their defence is "look, two professional women cyclists haven't criticised us. Women should be grateful for that."

posted by Pierre [79 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 13:17

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The Rumpo Kid wrote:
What does a sponsor get? They get their name linked with something that isn't widely perceived as being rife with dopers. Why do you think Rabobank are still happy for Marianne Vos to wear their logo, even though they've pulled out of the Men's side of the sport?

That's a plus point. But more money in the sport and you're more likely to get doping....if it doesn't already exist in the women's.

Most of all they are looking for coverage though.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1092 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 13:54

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
The Rumpo Kid wrote:
What does a sponsor get? They get their name linked with something that isn't widely perceived as being rife with dopers. Why do you think Rabobank are still happy for Marianne Vos to wear their logo, even though they've pulled out of the Men's side of the sport?

That's a plus point. But more money in the sport and you're more likely to get doping....if it doesn't already exist in the women's.

I agree (and a Google search of Genevieve Jeanson is something of an eye opener), which is why I used the word "perceived." I would like to see Women's Road Cycling getting a higher profile not because it is a squeaky clean, though less exciting, alernative to Men's, but because it is good in itself. But when people say "where's the money going to come from"? I would suggest that, like most Sports sponsorship, it will come from cynical people who's main interest is their own image.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 14:35

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The UCI should support women's cycling but the answer is not to force it down the throat of teams and the media

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 14:58

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The Rumpo Kid wrote:
I would suggest that, like most Sports sponsorship, it will come from cynical people who's main interest is their own image.

I would agree with that sentiment too, better than barking up the wrong tree, which is what I think Armitstead is doing by suggesting piggy backing off the men's teams, which struggle with their own funding.....Euskatel indeed.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1092 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 15:18

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Granted, running a road race with traffic is bonkers, but she's got to realise that simply because she takes part in cycle races doesn't mean that it's necessarily a good thing and that it should attract interest, money and crowds. I don't disagree with her that the piggy-backing on the men's races is a way to achieve some exposure, but it won't mean she gets quite the exposure she seems to believe she merits.

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posted by dullard [140 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 16:37

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:

I wonder how many people have sought out paraolympian events post-Olympics? I wonder how many of you were disappointed when the teams pulled out of the women's Tour of Tuscany?

Loving the way you conflate being female with disability. At least you aren't right on.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [307 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 22:26

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atlaz wrote:
So with, at the current count, three men's teams dropping this year, Europcar always on the edge and even "big" teams like Saxo struggling for money, where will the funds come from for the compulsory women's teams?

This.

posted by Pondo [19 posts]
24th September 2013 - 9:16

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Bedfordshire Clanger wrote:
Colin Peyresourde wrote:

I wonder how many people have sought out paraolympian events post-Olympics? I wonder how many of you were disappointed when the teams pulled out of the women's Tour of Tuscany?

Loving the way you conflate being female with disability. At least you aren't right on.

I once read a description of footballing disgrace Joey Barton that read "He comes across like the sixth former that has just discovered the Guardian".

You are veering towards fitting that description too.

posted by farrell [1325 posts]
24th September 2013 - 10:37

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Lizzie is in the right here ! Tweeted High & mighty Cookson last week after reading the Blog " Prowomen ", thus alerting him to the Toscana HC ( has cars ) F?cßup . Monday he comes out with a " wtf will checkup " tweet!

WELL WE ARE STILL AWAITING THE REPORT ! WHY ? You are tweeting @cooksonforuci & you run a blog (briancookson.com) yet as Pres. of UCI Road you appear to have nO COOPERATION from the Organiser or UCI Personnel at this Event ! says a lot for what you can expect to achieve IF YOU get the nod on friday !

This is Womens Racing at the HIGHEST LEVEL , not a bunch of school kids going around the block for a bit of fun ! As regards his disparagement of Nicole Cooke , anyone remember him ducking publicity WHEN SHE WAS ON THE PODIUM? Yes she was a MEDIA Story so those with her got their MUGS in the paper ! Not bad for their " reps "?

Get real Cookson , you are kidding the PUBLIC when you can't even do YOUR CURRENT JOB WELL !

OUT WITH Both of these charlatons ! Put a woman in Aigle with the MANDATE to clean house !

Will we be worse off ?

WE Couldn't lose by trying this as an interim measure !

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

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posted by skippy [378 posts]
24th September 2013 - 21:06

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skippy wrote:
Lizzie is in the right here ! Tweeted High & mighty Cookson last week after reading the Blog " Prowomen ", thus alerting him to the Toscana HC ( has cars ) F?cßup . Monday he comes out with a " wtf will checkup " tweet!

WELL WE ARE STILL AWAITING THE REPORT ! WHY ? You are tweeting @cooksonforuci & you run a blog (briancookson.com) yet as Pres. of UCI Road you appear to have nO COOPERATION from the Organiser or UCI Personnel at this Event ! says a lot for what you can expect to achieve IF YOU get the nod on friday !

This is Womens Racing at the HIGHEST LEVEL , not a bunch of school kids going around the block for a bit of fun ! As regards his disparagement of Nicole Cooke , anyone remember him ducking publicity WHEN SHE WAS ON THE PODIUM? Yes she was a MEDIA Story so those with her got their MUGS in the paper ! Not bad for their " reps "?

Get real Cookson , you are kidding the PUBLIC when you can't even do YOUR CURRENT JOB WELL !

OUT WITH Both of these charlatons ! Put a woman in Aigle with the MANDATE to clean house !

Will we be worse off ?

WE Couldn't lose by trying this as an interim measure !

You really need to give your head a wobble.

Why do you think that Cookson should be disclosing the contents of any report to some crank on twitter? Do you really think that you were the person that broke the news about Toscana to him? Perhaps he really could do with you as an assistant, he is after all struggling in his job, you know, with cycling being at it's lowest point in history and that....

And which woman would you like in charge of UCI? Anybody in particular or would you just like any woman, regardless of experience or ability as long as they are female?

posted by farrell [1325 posts]
24th September 2013 - 22:43

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farrell wrote:

And which woman would you like in charge of UCI? Anybody in particular or would you just like any woman, regardless of experience or ability as long as they are female?


Tracey Gaudry? Experienced at Confederation level.
As for Toscana, under UCI rules it is the job of the organisers to ensure riders are safe, and the job of the UCI to ensure that the rules are followed. Brian Cookson is President of the Road Commission of the UCI, and the only thing they have done about Toscana after years of complaint is grant 2HC status.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
24th September 2013 - 23:02

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