It was a crazy long weekend of women’s cycling – amazing racing on the road and MTB, all over the place. I wrote about the action on Total Women’s Cycling, but I wanted to post a ‘thankyou’ post. I’ve been struggling with my fan-motivation for the last few weeks – there was just so much bad news everywhere, and that really got me down. But then, this weekend! So much superb racing – and getting to enjoy it with an online community of fans, including watching riders on twitter having a great time and congratulating each other too – it reminded me exactly why I love the sport.
So, in no particular order….
The USA Cycling, Tour Tracker and VW partnership that brought us the US Pro National Championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Yes, it’s taken a long time for USAC to let the elite women race alongside the men, but once they did, they showed the world how to put on a National Championships! Equal prize money, equal promotion, fantastic live coverage of the race on the Tour Tracker, with great commentary from Kristin Armstrong that was the perfect introduction to women’s racing and the USA scene….. I keep saying this, but they really put down a marker for how to interest people in cycling in general, and women’s cycling in particular. I can’t remember when I last had the luxury of watching a women’s race from start to finish (the Olympics, maybe?) and I loved every minute.
Over in MTB, it was the second round of the Nove Mesto Cross Country World Cup, and they use a different platform, Red Bull tv, to showcase the sport. I only started following MTB last year, but one of the reasons it’s really easy to follow is again, brilliant coverage, with commentary that seems great for entry-level and knowledgeable fans alike. I especially liked how, in Albstadt, they could talk about Marianne Vos’ ride there and what it meant, even though she’s new to elite MTB. Here’s the short XCo World Cup Round 2 highlights and the full replays of Round 1 in Albstadt and Round 2, Nove Mesto – and while I would love to have seen more of the women in this little teaser for the Downhill season, I can’t wait for that season to start. Dan and I have talked about this in the past, but from the perspective of a new fan, I can only thank Red Bull for supporting the sport in so many ways. The coverage is great, I really, really wish we could see a Red Bull women’s team on the road – the explosive, attacking racing is made for it…
Another sponsor I really want to thank this weekend are Boels Rental, the Dutch construction equipment company who have really stepped up to support road racing this year. They became lead sponsor of team Boels-Dolmans, named sponsor of this weekend’s Boels Rental Hills Classic and September’s Boels Rental Ladies Tour, and you can see their branding all over races like the Flèche Wallonne and more. They also supported the video of the Hills Classic made by AshwinKrudersSportPromotions AND they sponsor the women’s section of CyclingOnline.nl – and I love that approach of helping a wider audience follow the race. In a world of declining sponsors, it’s great that a company can demonstrate that they see value in the sport at so many levels.
Next, I want to thank the Motomedia Team. These are a Belgian group who provide motorbike footage from bike races, and put it together. They’re the ones who bring us the videos of the Lotto Cycling Cup races, and you can have a look at their videos on their Vimeo, like this little one of Sunday’s Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik race. They’ve started producing something else, too – the CyclelivePlus TV show, for the Belgian CyclelivePlus Magazine. The first episode is all about women’s cycling, with a Dutch interview with Marianne Vos and her family, an interview with Liz Hatch in English, a focus on Lotto Belisol (and words from Ash Moolman & Carlee Taylor in English) and then some more footage from Gooik, and post-race words (in English!) with winner Emma Johansson. This is fantastic! Damn, I wish more races would hire them, they do a great job!
It wouldn’t be a European racing weekend if I wasn’t thanking the kind people who help us cycling fans follow the races live on twitter. Seriously, these people deserve all the accolades – they really make the races come alive, and that moment where I am watching twitter avidly, with the final metres ticking down, waiting for a refresh…. if I can’t see it live, this really, really helps. This weekend’s superstars are Richard Steege (the Boels-Dolmans mechanic, and I hope Boels pay him extra for this!), Karl Lima (the Hitec Products UCK manager), whoever was behind the ORICA-AIS twitter this weekend, and photographer/Wiggle Honda social media man, Bart Hazen. I can’t thank you enough! And special thanks, too, to CJ Farquharson, for her race reports, photos and results on womenscycling.net and more photos on her CJFoto site. They all make my life so much better – and it’s especially impressive that all of these people are seriously multi-tasking, and most do the twittering as an add-on to their many other jobs.
What all of these have in common is how easy it is these days to show off the sport and connect to fans – and make a whole ton of new fans. TourTracker is the most expensive way to do it from this weekend, but bear in mind that USA Cycling is nowhere near as well-funded as Federations like British Cycling and Cycling Australia. I hope Federations, races and teams can see these kinds of approaches as a welcome challenge, because there are clearly a whole load of innovative ways to connect to fans, and this is just scratching the surface. While we might not be able to get the TourTracker over to European races, there are interesting and innovative ways to share women’s racing – I loved this home-made aerial footage of the USA National Champs, using a GoPro, for example (thanks @MichaelCollins,who always sends me interesting things he sees!). After a week like this, it feels like the world is full of potential!
Finally, I wanted to thanks the most important people of all – the cyclists themselves. Without them, there’s nothing, and I am forever grateful to the riders who have given me SO MUCH entertainment this week. I never underestimate how many sacrifices they make for cycling, how they’re doing this through passion and love for the sport, and how much they give. My massive, massive thanks to every member of the pelotons – those on the podium, the domestiques working their hearts out for their team leaders, and those shelled off the back, suffering “off-stage”. I am continually inspired by them all, and watching the suffering, the pain, the endless attacks and the exhilaration – and watching them hug each other and celebrate after the races, and reading the tweets and blogs – from exultant to despondent, “but that’s bike racing” – I am continually reminded of the beauty and benefits of chasing my own dreams. From the bottom of me heart, thank you, cyclists, for everything you do.
There are probably more people to thank (all the other sponsors, race organisers and volunteers, for one) but that is enough for now. This weekend has given me my fan-mojo back, and I’m delighted about that. Here’s to more happy weekends and weeks in the future!
What we’ve been talking about lately
- Podcast 2016 Episode 34 – The Dystopic Science Fiction Architectural Cycling Digest
- 2016 Road World Championships – videos, photos & media from the Road Races
- Guest post: Peter van der Veen: Amstel Gold Race for women, fantastic! Or not so?
- Podcast 2016 Episode 33 – Sarah Is Not Allowed On Mountain Bikes
- 2016 ITT World Championships – videos, photos and more