For professional female cyclists everywhere, the 2013-2014 season proved that dreams really do come true. Road racing at the professional level for women went from lacking sponsors, races, funds and publicity, to a full-fledged sport that not only shares the spotlight with professional male cyclists, but as of late, has dominated it.
In looking back, the recent demand for equality in men’s and women’s professional cycling really started at the 2012 Summer Olympic games in London where, for the first time, the same number of cycling events were offered for both men and women.
After realizing the publicity and sponsor potential that professional female cyclists could garner from the Olympics, a few key players began to push for a more even playing field. Amongst these leaders were professional athletes Emma Pooley, Marianne Vos, Kathryn Bertine, Chrissie Wellington, and Lizzie Armitstead. While Pooley, Vos, Bertine, and Wellington led the crusade for a women’s “Tour de France” by creating a petition that reached over 90,000 signatures this April, Armitstead served as a strong proponent for “The Women’s Tour,” which will be England’s first even sanctioned multi-day stage race for women.
“I’ve been pretty vocal in my support for women’s cycling being treated properly and on an equal footing with the men so obviously am very excited about the Women’s Tour. I am totally behind what the organizers are doing and the ethics behind the race if you like, but as we get closer, being a racer, my focus is simply on the race itself and how we can perform best as a team,” UCI World Cup leader, Armitstead said in an interview with The Women’s Tour.
With all the momentum that these ladies have created in receiving UCI and sponsor support, it is critical that, as proponents of the sport, cyclists continually bring the same amount of enthusiasm and reverence to events such as the Ladies’ Tour of Qatar (January 4-7), the Giro Rosa (July 4-July 13), The Women’s Tour (May 7-11), and La Course (July 27) as they do to men’s races.
Some of the best ways to show your support for women’s professional cycling are to join the social media movement through using hashtags such as #TDF4women and following @LeTourEntier on Twitter along with watching the races online, and following your favorite female cyclists on Facebook or Instagram where you can see training photos along with the general silliness that comes about as a result of how awesome these teams are. On Instagram, I recommend following Carmen Small (@smallsunday), Ally Stacher (@stacherchick), Evelyn Stevens (@evelyn_stevens), and Tayler Wiles (@taylerwiles) as a start, along with some of your favorite teams such as Specialized-Lululemon (@velociosports), or Colavita Women’s Pro Cycling (@teamcolavita).
Additionally, remember that the absolute best way to support women’s cycling is to support the female cyclists in your life whether that is joining her on a casual evening ride around a lake, cheering her on at her first triathlon, or washing off her bike after a grueling day of singletrack. The only true way to contribute to the growth of the sport is to get more ladies on bikes more often, and ensure that they are supported in every way possible.