How we, the fans, can help support women’s cycling
One of my ongoing themes is thinking about how we, the fans, can help this sport we love. It’s a fascinating topic for me – on the one hand, I can (and do) bemoan the fact I feel women’s cycling is unfairly marginalised by the UCI, the cycling press, the media – after all, fans LOVE women’s racing when they get to see it, and more people watched the women’s Olympic road race on the BBC and Eurosport than watched the men’s – but on the other, what an amazing opportunity for us, as fans, to shape how the sport is portrayed, and to directly help it grow.
Think about it – with the ridiculous sums of money and publicity floating around Team Sky, for example, fans of men’s cycling tend to be seen as an amorphous mass, for riders to moan about, if they think about us at all. But on the women’s side, our blogging, tweeting, ‘like’-ing, and all our actions, can really make a difference. I truly believe in the maxim, “be the change you want to see” – and I am still in awe of how fans’ backing and support for the Unofficial, Unsanctioned Social Media Jersey blew all our expectations out of the water, and showed how, working together, we can directly support the riders, teams and sport we love.
And there are some more initiatives I want to highlight, that give us some really simple, easy and fun ways to help. I know I talk about some of these all the time, but damn, I love their passion, their continual commitment to the sport – and above all, how EASY they make it for us to help.
Amber Pierce has been on a real roll this year, continually coming up with new ways to promote the sport – from her live Q&As from the Giro Donne and throughout the off-season on the Glacier Glove facebook page, to her articles on the Triple Crankset. In fact, Amber’s Q&As were what prompted me to talk to Dan about getting the Social Media Jersey, which I’d been thinking about for years, to actually become reality.
But I think this time Amber’s out-done herself, with a ridiculously simple idea – Click Through Thursdays – where fans can act together to show sponsors, media, teams and riders how much we love them. I really recommend you read her article all about why this helps, and what she thinks we should do, and sets out WHY something as simple as clicking, or ‘like’ing or commenting really does make a difference, but I’ll quote her idea in a nutshell:
To this end, I would like to propose a new social media tradition and hashtag: Click Thru Thursdays (#ClickThruThurs). Every Thursday, take a few minutes to “click through.” If you want to recommend particular athletes, programs, teams, news sites, or other organizations to other fans, post them with the hashtag #ClickThruThurs. Everyone can search the hashtag and take a few minutes to click through articles, “like” a page, or follow new athletes. Here are a few suggestions, but please, feel free to contribute more!
- Follow or “Like” news sites that feature women’s cycling news articles on Twitter or Facebook
- Re-tweet or share news articles about women’s cycling
- Click-thru websites for events that offer equal prize money, or promote women’s cycling
- Follow more women cyclists, teams, events or programs on Twitter or Facebook
- Click through women’s team websites, women’s event websites or athlete websites, with special attention to their sponsors
- Re-tweet or share posts from women’s teams, programs, athletes, sponsors or organizations
- Comment on athlete posts, blogs, team websites, sponsors websites, etc
- Post your favorite athletes, sponsors, websites, teams, events, programs etc with the hashtag #ClickThruThurs to remind and encourage other fans to show their support
Isn’t that simple? And it’s something everyone can do – just by taking five minutes a week, we can not only make a difference to our favourites , but we can also create a critical mass and demonstrate that women’s cycling has reach.
If you want an idea of what to click on, for next Thursday, CQ Ranking has a great list of riders’ websites and twitters, and of teams. And I’ve been writing my Celebrating Social Media series in the hopes it will introduce people to riders they might not have heard about – feel free to use that! But I’ve got this cunning plan that we’ll feature something we like every Thursday on this blog throughout the off-season as a reminder. Get clicking!
Both Dan and I are really excited about this, so we’re planning to interview Amber to ask more about this, and anything else we can think, in a future podcast – watch this space!
Fan Backed Women’s Cycling
I’ve talked before about #FBWC, Stefan Wyman‘s plan for galvanising UK women’s cycling, so it’s really exciting to see the first initiatives taking off. Again, you can read Stef’s ideas behind this on the Matrix-Prendas website – click through here, and start from the bottom to see how it continues to evolve – but the basic premise is that we, fans, get together and use whatever resources we have - money, creativity, online “reach”, physical presence at races, and SO much more – to support women’s racing, UK-based to begin with, but who knows where it will stop?
It’s also fun to see actions happening already, even before the season starts. One of the key goals is to widen participation in women’s racing, and this is exactly what I mean about us being the change we want to see – because while people could whine and moan about how British Cycling should be doing more to help this,#FBWC is one of the fan-based actions that says “If we want it, let’s do it!”. On 9th and 23rd December, there’ll be racing workshops in Kent, to help women learn the skills they need to start or improve their racing. Check out their poster!
And #FBWC isn’t the only UK fan-based initiative to help women’s racing – Heather Bamforth has set up the Biketreks Women’s Development Squad in the North-West of England – and South West Women’s Cycling has similar goals for women’s cycling in my region. And this just scratches the surface – if you know of any other initiatives in your area or country, leave them in the comments, and I’ll come back to them in a future post.
You can listen to Stef talking about #FBWC and Heather on Biketreks Development Squad on the recent women’s cycling edition of the Velocast (it also has me raving about cycling, but you don’t have to listen to that!). To get involved in #FBWC, email Staf on Stefan [at] onthedrops [dot] com
Fans making a difference
There are all kinds of ways fans can get involved and spread their love of the sport. I always love Monty.‘s articles on Podium Café, and everyone who writes on women’s cycling there (I post a lot about races there, so this might seem like shameless self-promotion, but it’s really not meant to be) – and as well as Monty.’s race previews, I also love the previews and articles John Orbea writes, on his fantastic women’s cycling blog, Les Déesees de la Route. He’s such a passionate fan on twitter, too, and is always up for a chat about the latest news, gossip and ferrets.
A blog I read religiously is Le Blog de Gwéna, the first point of call for any news about French women riders and racing, and for women’s cycling in general. Gwéna is this incredible resource, an enthusiastic fan who is first with SO much news. Follow her on twitter too, she’s fantastic!
Another French resource is Petitesreines, who bring us home-made media at it’s finest. Their website has all kinds of resources, based around French racing, but I love their videos, which give us a fan’s-eye-view of what it’s really like at road and cyclocross races. They always make me feel like I know what it’s actually like to experience the crazy circus of professional cycling – and make me want to jump on the Eurostar and see it for myself.
If you’re ever looking for videos of races or riders, the fan-based team at Cycling Fever work really hard to collect every single piece of video they can find – as well as providing amazing information about, well, everything. Check out their women’s site, it’s well worth looking around – and all run by fans!
Then there are the twitterati. @Velowijf is a great twitter-source of information on races, news, gossip and all sorts - and the photographers Bart Hazen, @Bartoli84, who posts photos, interviews and all sorts on the Daily Peloton, is always worth following – as is Balint Hamvas, @Cyclephotos, if you want updates from cyclocross races, and to see beautiful photos afterwards on his website, Cyclephotos.co.uk.
If you know of other fan-based support for women’s cycling, or ways fans can help move the sport forward, leave it in the comments, or email me at prowomenscycling [at] gmail [dot] com. And if you’ve got a Crazy Idea, but you’re not sure how to make it reality and want to chat about it, do the same, or tweet me on @_pigeons_ or Dan on @entendered and we’ll see if we can help.
And remember, much as the videos and blogs and all that are great, just re-tweeting or sharing something you like is a really valuable action. As Amber says:
If fans take just a few minutes per week every Thursday to voice their support, I believe we can collectively spike some of these quantitative ROI numbers in a way that will encourage existing sponsors to stay involved with the sport, as well as to encourage others to get involved. There is no need to limit this to women’s cycling, either. Take this opportunity to show your support for clean riders and programs, for junior development programs, or educational programs. Whatever you see out there in the world of cycling that is good and worthy, click through!
Let’s make this happen!