While part of professional cycling implodes, shall we turn our attention to something more (ahem) positive?
Back in July, after returning from the Tour, I stood in the pouring rain in the newly opened London Olympic Park watching The Greatest Cyclist In The World be pushed all the way to the line by a vegetarian from West Yorkshire. Enthralled, excited and motivated, I rushed to the Olympic Park Megastore to buy a Great Britain branded cycling shirt and vowed to buy a road bike. I wanted more. The Olympic Velodrome opened and Queen Victoria stepped off the throne to be succeeded by a young pretender from just up the M11. But I still wanted to see more. So I stood in the baking Kentish sunshine at Brands Hatch and unashamedly cried as Sarah Storey destroyed not only her own race field, but also that of the mens’ race that started 3 minutes in front of her. I sat in Look Mum No Hands with a lump in my throat watching the Road Race World Championships as The Greatest Cyclist In The World won the rainbow stripes, thinking how privileged I was to be watching her race. Thinking about how I would tell my children about watching her in the same way as my Dad told me about watching The Cannibal. Having lost my way with football, having got tired of the air of suspicion that hangs over men’s cycling, I realised I had found a sport that truly moved me. I wanted more. I needed more. Much more…
But the joy of this discovery was overshadowed. I found articles about Emma Pooley having to consider retirement because of the lack of support she was getting. I went to watch an event at the historic Herne Hill Velodrome where the lack of female cyclists entering was openly criticised. I read Sarah Storey imploring more women to get involved in cycle racing, so I nervously entered a sportive. And I trawled the internet looking for more women’s Pro Cycling events I could go and watch, but they just weren’t there. So I asked for help…
Which is when I discovered #fansbackedwomensteam and #fansbackedwomenscycling, an intiative started in part by an article on Cyclismas by Stefan Wyman from Matrix Prendras about the role of fans in women’s cycling. This quote spoke particularly strongly to me:
“In many ways, women’s cycling lacks history; certainly compared to the men’s side of the sport. This era of raised interest in women’s cycling is a chance to make a new kind of history for the sport, in a new, interesting and socially inclusive way.”
The opportunity for a community based model for cycling really excites me, something inclusive and accountable to the fans but also a fantastic opportunity to give these talented sportswomen the platform and audiences they deserve. And to give us more of the fabulous, enthralling women’s cycling that I am so desperate to watch.
The Fans Backed Womens Cycling project is continually evolving, but I strongly suggest you follow Stefan Wyman and #fansbackedwomenscycling on Twitter for progress. This is a massive opportunity for cycling fans, to take back pro cycling from the dominance of dodgy Texans, dubious media magnates and questionable governing bodies and make it in to something that is true and exciting and ours. All of ours.
My magnificent Marianne Vos T shirt, pictured above, is by Freebird Velo