Let’s change women’s cycling – the 2017 Ardennes Week edition

The 2017 Women’s World Tour and season in general have already shown us an increase in live women’s racing – from streams from the Australian 2017 openers, the Mitchelton Bay Crits and Deakin Women’s Race at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, to the entirely live Omloop van het Hageland, and the live last parts of the WorldTour races Strade Bianche, Ronde van Drenthe and Trofeo Aldredo Binda, we’ve been able to watch some amazing racing.

But the season won’t continue like that.  There will be some fantastic live racing at the Healthy Ageing Tour and maybe at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, but what about at the Ardennes Week?

Just having an Ardennes Week is fantastic.  The three races, Amstel Gold on 16th April, Flèche Wallonne Femmes on 19th, and the first ever Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes on 23rd, will each have a women’s race that’s part of the Women’s WorldTour – but as yet, we’ve had no news about whether we’ll be able to see them live, or even a good length of highlights, beyond 10 minutes on the UCI YouTube.

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In praise of the Enduro World Series – and their new Juliana Women’s Rides

Enduro MTB is a pretty new discipline, as far as cycling goes.  It’s kind of a cross between Downhill, cross country and Marathon mountain biking – a stage race format, with multiple events over a weekend, and competitors also riding the (mostly uphill) transfers between the (mostly downhill) stages.  If you want to know more about it, there are the wikipedia article, and introductions from Pinkbike and BikeRadar, and this video from GCN MTB.

The Enduro World Series is the biggest competition, a season-long series that takes place in some truly gorgeous locations.  It’s only been running since 2013, and it’s very definitely outside the umbrella of the UCI, organised by the Enduro Mountain Bike Association (EMBA), which itself started in 2012, and from the start, it’s been very inclusive, especially of women, but also of fans.  It has excellent media, with lots of rider involvement, in the previews of each race, highlights, and lots of things in between, and it makes these available to pretty much everyone.  Check out the video page and photo galleries on their website, and drool over that beautifully-MTB combination of fantastic people doing extraordinary things on amazing bikes, in the most incredible landscapes.

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Sponsoring women’s cycling leads to direct sales!

Yesterday I wrote about 10 ways we can all help grow women’s cycling, and in it, I talked about buying or using products that support riders, teams and races.  I said that I was sad that I couldn’t use Boels Rental products – but then my friend Nic replied to a tweet about the company:

It inspired me to ask my twitter followers to share things that they’ve bought, or used, because of the women’s cycling connection, and especially because companies have sponsored riders, teams and races.  The replies made me so happy, I wanted to share some them with you.

They include a lot of people who’ve bought bikes and related products, but they also cover everything from people making decisions about buying a pair of socks, or choosing  right up to a car, because companies sponsor the sport, and lots in between.  These are just a tiny snapshot, based on who saw my two tweets asking for examples, in around 24 hours, so it’s the tiniest tip of the iceberg of demonstrating how sponsoring cycling raises awareness and changes perceptions of a brand. What’s also interesting is how many people are still using products after the sponsors left the sport – in some cases, years later.

There were so many replies that I couldn’t include them all, or this post would go on for days – but thank you so much to everyone who shared these with me.  If you want to talk about this, or to share things to be included in Part 2, please leave me a comment below, or chat to me on twitter.   In no particular order…

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Take 5 minutes to help women’s cycling in 2017

It’s 2017, and a lot of us are really looking for positives, and one of the best ones I’m finding is doing something to help women’s cycling.  We can all do this – just set aside 5 minutes a week, get online, and you can make a difference, to your favourite riders, teams and races.  You can do this at lunchtime at work, on the bus or train – I do it in ad breaks, when I’m watching TV!

But the key is, even five minutes can definitely help the sport.  Whenever I talk to anyone involved in cycling, these are the actions they recommend, and they’re super-simple.  None of this is new – we’ve talked about a lot of this for years on the site, for example,  a few years ago, when Amber Pierce started her #ClickThruThurs initiative – but with the internet moving so fast, it’s always worth re-visiting.

Basically, the key is to take a little bit of time a week (or more!) to engage with riders and races, their sponsors and team media and thank them for what they do, and to share media that covers women’s cycling.  It’s so simple, that it almost seems too easy, but it really, really makes a difference.  I’ve got ten suggestions that I try to make time for whenever I can.

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The 2016 women’s road calendar – changes since December

I’ve got an sporadic series looking at how the women’s road cycling calendar changes over time, because it’s something that really fascinates me. The bottom-line conclusions are that women’s road racing is definitely improving year-on-year, with more UCI races in more countries, and there are really positive trends.  One of these has been fewer major clashes, and the return of UCI racing to Australia, which really make me happy to report.

However there are still ongoing areas for improvement, like “pop-up” races being added late to the calendar, and  various changes that happen during the series that can make things really difficult for teams to plan their season (find out more about that, in my 2015 interviews with two DSs last year about this – ORICA-AIS’ Marv Barras, for the big team perspective, and Matrix Procycling’s Stefan Wyman for the small team PoV).

This year, I’ve decided to look into when the changes happen during the season as well – I wrote about what was planned for 2016 when the calendar was announced, in October, and then changes that had been made between October and December, and now the season’s up and running, I’ve taken another look – and found we’ve got both new races, and races that have disappeared since the end of 2015 (although not all of that is bad).   Let’s start with some colour-coded charts – click on them to make them bigger.

2016 calendar comparisons - March 2016 page 12016 calendar comparisons - March 2016 page 2

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The 2016 Women’s World Tour – media scorecard 1

This is going to be part of an ongoing series, looking at the media about the Women’s Road Cycling World Tour.  I’ll talk about the actual racing in other posts, and especially in the weekly women’s cycling podcasts, but I want to spend some time looking at how the series lives up to the promises the UCI have made about it.  And now the dust has settled on the first round of the series, the Strade Bianche, I want to look at how the World Tour compares to the Road World Cup.

Let’s start with what was promised.  The World Tour is a brand new initiative for 2016, an evolution of the women’s Road World Cup, going from 10 day races in 2015, to 17 races with 35 racing days this year.  It’s been much hyped this year, for example, in last week’s press release about the series, we had quotes from UCI President Brian Cookson:  “It will provide the perfect platform not just to grow women’s cycling around the world, but also to boost the profile of women’s cycling“, and Vice-President Tracey Gaudry: “Teams, riders and event organisers are all on-board, and fans will now be able to see the best female cyclists all around the world.”  It promises:

“All 17 events of the 2016 UCI Women’s WorldTour will benefit from TV coverage, either from live broadcast, live streaming or same day highlights packages.

In addition, the UCI will partner exclusively with IMG to ensure extra-exposure for the UCI Women’s WorldTour through the InCycle magazine show, which has generated a global audience of 18.68 million from 1,358 hours of broadcast coverage in 2015. Throughout the season, 12 shows of 26 minutes will each feature a sequence dedicated to the UCI Women’s WorldTour. This exclusive content will be accessible via http://www.incycle.tv and http://tv.uci.ch (without geo restrictions) and through the +35 broadcasters the magazine is distributed to on all continents.”

The trouble is, what we’ve seen from the first round, and what seems to be coming up for future races doesn’t match these promises.

Less coverage from the World Tour than for the World Cups

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Why more race coverage isn’t good news for all races

January has been the most incredible month for women’s cycling, with live streams of races on every weekend, from road, cyclocross and track, and it follows an amazing 2015, with more to watch than ever.  For the last two summers I’ve been able to watch live road races on six weekends in a row, and the 2015/6 season gave us two of the three major cyclocross seasons streamed in full.  Of course, MTB has been consistently great for years, with the Downhill and Cross Country World Cup finals streamed on Red Bull TV, and it’s fantastic that the other disciplines have been catching up.

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