Tuesday, 28 July 2009
G: Riders and teams come and go, but women’s cycling seems to be getting hit fairly hard with sponsors pulling out for the 2009 season. First, what is appealing about women’s cycling relative to men’s cycling? What do you think should change in women's cycling to get people, and sponsors, more interested and excited about it?
NC: This is a question that quite honestly bewilders me. I see the massive marketing potential in women athletes but it seems to be a sentiment that is not shared. There is a fine line between exploiting women's sexuality and women’s athleticism in cycling...it seems to be defined as one or the other, I think marketing strategists are confused by this. I recently spent time at the Amgen Tour of California and I was reminded of how the cycling industry is run primarily by men who show very little interest in women's cycling. Yes, some companies dedicate a few sponsorship dollars and product to a couple of teams for PR purposes, but in large part most companies are not very interested in the true development of women’s cycling. Men's teams get far more. There are a few industry companies; however that have put thought into women’s products. I have always been incredibly grateful for all the support but this gratitude can easily turn into frustration.
I believe women are far better ambassadors for the sport and the products they represent, for example, whenever the team travels internationally we take an extra few days to visit sponsors or dealers where their products are sold or we visit local schools. Team members will make time for shop rides or rides with local clubs. We are always well received wherever we go. Team members constantly reach out to the public to promote their sport. I can honestly say this is true of most women’s teams.
Women’s racing is exciting, I know that the top women’s teams in the U.S are very conscious of the comparisons to men's racing and race aggressively and hard to keep it exciting.
There are many parallels between the cycling industry I am now immersed in, and the world of horse racing and soccer that I grew up in. The struggle for women is very apparent. I am not one for sugar coating and there is a lot of smoke and mirrors in women's cycling and I certainly don’t want to sound bitter but it’s a sport that is struggling to gain the attention and exposure it deserves. The women racers and team managers make incredible compromises and sacrifices to ensure that their teams are out there on the circuit. Demographics show that women purchase more bikes than men and support the sport financially.
So what's the problem?
I wish I knew the answer. Surely it cannot all be a focus on the Tour de France and other grand tours? I notice in certain popular online cycling magazines that the men and the women can compete in the same NRC event and the men's headline is always first and in bold and the women's underneath in a smaller font!
I do know that the bigger races in the USA should all include a women's event; it helps to be a part of a big media machine like Amgen Tour of California or Tour of Missouri as both of these races are working hard to include a women's event, it my hope to see an extension of the criterium at ATOC. A three day stage race would be a good start.
That being said, we are forging ahead with a new program model that will ensure longevity and continued growth in the sport. We have a team of very bright future stars, I used to love the expression, "sky’s the limit," but I think we can go further.
There is current discussion internationally about sponsors dropping out of women's cycling, like proverbial NT flies, which may well leave women's elite level cycling in tatters. It's shocking to think that women's cycling is in such jeopardy and very scary in terms of the sustainability of sport. Just when you think progress is being made, you get massive kicks like this, and wonder why the hell should anyone bother continuing to beat their head against brickwall of ignorance and chauvenism (yep, cos that's what it is: chauvenism. Look it up ).
Locally, there are a few more racing opportunities opening up, but in small, patronising ways. The women's support 3 day, 3 stage tour of the JHST. Fantastic that it's being offered, but a 10km TT as day 2 stage 2??? I wonder how many women will race, will spend the money, time off work etc to drive to Anglesea to race 55km, then Geelong to race 10km? This race highlights the dilemmas of hosting women's racing. It's an afterthought, with time restrictions forcing these distances upon the race format. Hopefully the local club level riders will support it (unfortunately I won't be with World Masters Track three days after this event) and we see it again next year in an expanded format.
Women competitors need to see the opportunity such an event poses, and take advantage of it. I hope they are not offended by the distances, and decide to show their offence in not entering (and effectively boycotting the race). Build it and they will come?? They need to seeing the field for what it is, and go play ball on it for the "good" of women's racing. Show the race promoters, sponsors, media types that there is a need/demand, that women can provide quality, competitive racing (that's our part of the deal girls), and that women's racing is a worthwhile investment.
We also need more Nicola Cranmers in the world to develop the level of professionalism within women's cycling, and across all levels of our sport, so that investors (promoters and organisers, sponsors etc) are confident in a return on their investment. The development of women's racing is complex, but not insurmountable, and takes a coming together of minds, funds, resources, foresight, time, energy and determination. So far in local racing, I have seen snippets of some of these elements, but not yet as a synergistic group of people all prepared to commit the 110% required to make it happen more holistically. I keep hoping, and working in my own quiet way...
Monday, 27 July 2009
Friday, 24 July 2009
So last night at racing, knowing I still have no top end speed, and endurance is down, Coach gave me a timely . Lining up for each race, I rode past the whole field on the fence, and put myself at the front. It’s amazing what a difference that does to you mentally.
The field was small last night (less than 10), with a number of old hands who know the score, and are gems to race with. That made my job of watching and positioning myself much easier. Unfortunately I ran out of speed, lungs and legs each race, but was doing what a smart racer should be doing. The final race of the night, I’d done my maths, and ended up 2nd wheel with two laps to go. I went with the jump after a microsecond of usual hesitation, then hooked in and stayed with them as best I could. I finally was dropped into the back straight of the final lap, but coming around into the home straight, I saw a dark blue of one of the old hands out of my right eye. No way was I going to let him come past, so I dropped the last millimetre of accelerator and held him off over the line. A good night of racing lessons, with those lessons embedded, not just rote learned.
PS If you're wondering about the Jens reference, it's a running joke. One for Karen!
Monday, 20 July 2009
Friday, 17 July 2009
I am beginning to think Columbia HTC may be my new favourite team, with some talented Australians on board.
It's an interesting/odd/queer/bizarre thing to know that each time you get on the bike it's going to hurt, but the hunger for the goal outweighs those moments of pain that are waiting for you. I guess that does make us slightly insane. But goddamit, it sure feels good when you stop, feels even better when what was once difficult becomes easier.
There were some new faces, and new legs last night. Mostly I just saw them on the fence before the race start, although in the final race of the night, I tried to keep the view of their butts, er wheels right in front of me, until my legs couldn’t hold on any longer. I’m thinking a couple of those butts will be in C Grade next week. Pity. Nice view, shame about the demolition they wreaked.
I had a run in with asthma in the second race, and after ventolining up, was all set for the motorpace, with strong visualisations of my moves in the final 3 laps. I was second wheel with 7 laps to go, counting back, planning where I was going to sit when I finished my turn behind the bike and which wheels to pick to carry me home, when the shiny new “Scatto” derny did as it is named and scattoed off the track in the home straight. WTF???? Suddenly we were flipped into scratch race mode with the wind hitting us full frontal. I tried to maintain pace as I took the front, but it suckered me out totally, so that I was struggling in the garbage bag on the blue line while hunting for wheels after my turn on the front. I found a good wheel eventually, one that had completely demolished the points score earlier, but had nothing to go with when he fired up his rocket launchers. “Houston, we have a problem. No legs”. I finished off the back, but, well, at least I finished. I had déjà vu a la 2008, and am hungry to get back full fitness to be on the other side of the bunch finishes.
So the overall gist is that I am regaining strength, but without any top end speed (to be expected) although slowly edging towards pre-flu fitness of 8 weeks ago (OMG that long ago???). I am back in full, painful, training and it’s showing in more ways than one. I am fitter, but my legs are freakin’ sore after this week’s efforts. The post race leg massage last night, lying in front of the tv watching the start of the TdF, wrapped in a huge, warm, snuggly zebra blanket with the cat, sure was magic.
Monday, 13 July 2009
Friday night I headed out for a 2hr night ride along the local rail trail with Mr Flowerpants. Fortunately the weather was on our side, apart from the blistering head, cross and finally tail wind once we hit the turn around point. The track was dry, the temperature mild, and I was slightly overdress for a winter’s night. It’s been a very long time since I rode the mtb, and it spun like a hot knife through butter. Pity my legs didn’t, but that’s another story. I did expected more wildlife out on the track, and was mildly disappointed that the naturespotting with the Ay Ups was fruitless.
We did, however, come across a family out on their bikes for the night, including two kids under 8, one of whom was under 5!! Brave to take such young kids out on bikes in the dark, but also what a fun adventure for them. In the end, the only real wildlife we encountered was a bessa brick that went by the name of Sheeeyitawombatfuckthatwasclose. Why is it that Australian mammals like to run into and across your path, while the imported species run away?? Fortunately we managed to dodge Sheeyitawombat, with some creative skidding, and bike handling skills.
Saturday was spent being domestic, in part due to the very wintersome weather, and a fortuitous race cancellation. 120kph winds apparently out at Gisbourne, so I very was glad not to have to face that! Saturday night was time to glam up for an evening out at the annual Audax awards night. Having gone to the CSV version the previous week, I hate to say it, but the Audax night rocked. Good food, fun people, very welcoming, and as a group, incredibly appreciative of their volunteers. I think it’s a failure of cycling racing as a sport to truly recognise the depth of volunteerism that occurs to make our sport actually happen. It tends to be hidden under a gloss of elitism and PROism that goes to make the sport at the higher levels. Such PROism doesn’t extend to the grass roots level (and local Open races are still grass roots: they grow our elite/international riders, and are often run by clubs and predominantly by volunteers) and for some reason, lack of PRO seems to warrant less recognition. Some might call it snobbery.
Sunday was another venturesome trip down the rail trail, thanks to a megasleep in after seriously late night. This time we headed out for a few km longer, some rain, more wind, more mud, and greater fatigue afterwards than Friday’s version. A bit of cross (haha) training never goes astray, and I really enjoyed the change of scenery and riding style. I decided to wear a HR monitor on Sunday, just to see the kind of workout I was getting, and was pleasantly surprised. Nothing terribly taxing overall, apart from one or two “climbs”, but a good tempo at endurance pace. It all adds up, and I need to make some steady, healthy deposits in the bank at the moment, even if I did none of the racing I had planned!
Friday, 10 July 2009
Anyways, it's been an enjoyable way to spend Friday lunch...
And now that I have spent more than half my life outside of Queensland, I no longer qualify as one!
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
A list of conspiracy theories, mainly cos I found one today on Cyclingnews that I just love. Please feel free to add any that are entertaining, far-fetched, or could actually be true!!
#1 How to get Lance of Team Lansana into the Maillot Jeune before the end of Week 1
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
It also reminded me of why we do it.
I also had fun reading Jess Douglas's blog, and her's and hubby Norm's (whom I've not yet had the pleasure of meeting) business: mtbskills.com.au Looks like their business is rocking!! I meet Jess last year at one of our track skills programs, and she is one super chick. All the best at Worlds Jess!!!
Firstly: me! Back at the track on Thursday, planning for Gisbourne Saturday and Altona Crits on Sunday.
Secondly: TdF of course!! I've not paid much attention to it this year, and I usually ignore the first week as a matter of course. As we don't have TV at home (yet) I've taken to following a select few TdF riders via Twitter. So far, I know Rogers had salmon for dinner, Renshaw is stoked with his team effort, Cadel hasn't given up hope, Leipheimer has never seen the group split so suddenly.. you get the idea. A much more fun way to follow The Tour!!
Monday, 6 July 2009
- I'm in week 5 of flu mode, although admittedly I am now in the post-viral stage, and on the bike as best I can, which is kinda depressing in a lost fitness, and OMG this really hurts kind of way.
- I have moved house, for the second time in less than a year, making three addresses in 12months. I moved last week, and have the necessaries unpacked. The rest can wait til I need it, and then need to remember which box it's in!
- I am still studying post-grad (hmm how many years to go??) with another mega assignment looming large, and am starting a 6 week course on Auslan in 2 weeks time. Glutton for punishment??
- After missing a couple of races I'd entered, thanks to the lingering flu, I tried a racing comeback in the last week or so, without success (ouch!! no legs, no speed, no endurance) More work required to get back pre flu fitness, and I'll give it another go later this week, and try to stay positive/pragmatic about it all.
- I suddenly remembered late last week that I actually need to ENTER for Worlds, otherwise it could be embarrassing come the end of September. Silly me!!
- Attended the CSV awards night last Friday night, with some deserving winners, and am attending the Audax equivalent this coming weekend. The boots went down a treat ;-)
- Marty is still frying my legs on a weekly basis, as well as my back, my arms and my core. Go Marty!! With the number of muscles in my back that are popping out, I am considering a career change to body building. I'm not sure could handle the fake tans and wearing of bikinis though...
- I've found a taste for (home grown) goat. Much better than sheep to eat. So you can imagine my delight to finding it at the local supermarket on the weekend, alongside a couple of cryovaced rabbits. Coool!!!
Fixie riding 101