I’m really excited about this brand new cycling-and-women project, The Adventure Syndicate, that brings together nine amazing women who have incredible adventures on (and off) the bike, to share their stories, and inspire other women (and men too) to have their own cycling experiences too. I interviewed two of the Syndicate members about it – cycle courier, solo round-the-world-ish cyclist, and author Emily Chappell, and Scottish cross country MTB star and Cycletherapy founder Lee Craigie. They told me how it came about, who else is involved, and where they want to take it all in the future – including how everyday cyclists can get involved in their North Coast 500, and hang out with them in Inverness on the weekend of 16th May.
This is just the start, so make sure you bookmark The Adventure Syndicate website, and follow them on twitter, instagram and facebook. There’s more information about each of the Syndicate cyclists here, including links to their personal sites.
Emily wrote about the North Coast 500 here – and you can follow them on the Adventure Syndicate media – and join them en route, as well as before and after in the Velocity Café in Inverness, on 14th and 17th May. Emily’s post about riding up Mont Ventoux is here.
Emily and Lee talked about Findra, the Scottish cycling clothing company for women (which men are wearing too!) – and here’s that snowboarder being chased by a bear…
Big, big thanks to my Patreon supporters, who fund me to do interviews and lots more women’s cycling work – you can join them from as little as #/€/$ 2 a month over here.
Saturday 30th April 2016
It’s a super-busy weekend of racing, with two stage races, and over in Yorkshire, the revamped Asda Tour de Yorkshire women’s race, which is on the same day, and exactly the same route, as Stage 2 of the men’s race. And we get to watch it live – including World Champion Lizzie Armitstead racing on her home roads, and Emma Pooley‘s return to the peloton.
The race is being shown on ITV4, where the awesome ex-top sprinter and Wiggle High5 boss Rochelle Gilmore and Ned Boulting are commentating, and on British Eurosport, where I’ll be part of the commentary team with Matt Stephens. It’s a very early start – the race begins at 08:15 UK BST (09:15 Euro CEST, 3:15am USA EDT, 5:15pm Australian AEST) and is due to finish around 12:10 BST (13:10 CEST, 7:10am EDT, 9:10pm AEST).
If you can’t watch the TV, you can follow the race on twitter with the #TdY hashtag, and #WTdY, which is specific to the women’s race, and via the Tour de Yorkshire twitter. There’s more on their facebook and instagram.
This week there’s been tons in the news about British Cycling and discrimination, particularly relating to allegations of sexism, saying a rider’s too old to race at 25, and most recently, discrimination against para-cyclists. This started when British Cycling talked to the Telegraph about dropping sprinter Jess Varnish from the programme – which wasn’t a surprise, as she had voiced her frustrations about how BC had handled the Team Sprint, when GB failed to qualify at the 2016 Track World Championships. Varnish’s issue then was the choices BC had made about the teams they put into races for the Olympic Qualifying period, and so BC’s sacking her was expected at the time.
She then responded, and what was surprising is that she’s alleged to have been told to “go off and have a baby”, and that at 25 she’s too old to improve. It was followed by British Cycling’s Performance Director, Shane Sutton, denying that in the media – and some great pieces by former Olympic and World Champions Nicole Cooke and Victoria Pendleton speaking out in defense of Varnish, Varnish’s official statement, and an interview talking about a ‘culture of fear‘ at BC, an interesting comment from Lizzie Armitstead, a piece on the MTB issues from Jenny Copnall and then (Daily Mail link) Para-cyclist Darren Kenny and “multiple sources” talking about offensive language and behaviour towards Para-cyclists – which lead to Sutton’s suspension, and then resignation.
Update! Olympic Champion Rebecca Romero also talked about the toxic velodrome atmosphere
So that’s this week! But this is very much part of a pattern. While big name men like Bradley Wiggins have come out defending Sutton, and track superstar Laura Trott doing the same, this is part of a LONG pattern of top-name women talking about their bad experiences with British Cycling and their approach to women’s cycling (whether they use the word “sexism” or not), and Shane Sutton.
I’m always interested in how women are portrayed in cycling media, and I talk about the bad, of course, but also the good – and I was already collecting examples of great advertising, when this popped up in my twitter-stream:
This is such an amazing move! For years, the ‘Assos Girls’ – topless models wearing bibshorts and caressing their boobs, jerseys allegedly advertised to women with a woman on her knees in stilettos and spray-on PVC leggings (check out the 2nd photo here, and read the post, it’s hilarious!) have been an embarrassment to cycling for years. My post about the Assos Girl, and cycling companies who market well to women has had one of the biggest number of hits since I posted it in 2013 (despite all the pictures having disappeared because they’re all gone from the sites now). So of course I immediately clicked through to the Ella Cycling Tips article to see what’s going on – and I loved the quotes from the new Assos CEO Phil Duff, including:
“Yes, I am quite painfully aware of how Assos has portrayed women in the past,” said Duff, who had been an Assos customer himself since its founding days. “Not only do I know that from the market place, but in my first few weeks of getting involved with the Assos, I’d come home every night and my wife would say, ‘when the hell are you getting the naked women off their website?’”
“There are some things that are changing, particularly with respect to the customer-facing side of this company, one of which is that everyone here is now fully on board that we are now going to portray women the same way we portray men –as athletes,”
So hooray, Assos is now off my personal blacklist! Their site is completely down, in development, but you can sign up to get notified when they’re back.
And one other good thing to celebrate? It’s clear from Duff’s comments, and the comments from USA Cycling about their relationship with the company, that public opinion played a big part in this too – so when we see terrible advertising (‘I hate Jeffsy‘, #Sockgate, Six Six One’s kneepad imagery, the Maxxis calendar, to name some recent examples), talking, writing and tweeting about it may not have an immediate effect, but it does help effect change – isn’t that great to know?
So, onwards to more good that I’ve seen so far this year. I’ve talked about these in podcasts and elsewhere on the site, but they’re so good, they deserve to be celebrated. As always, if you’ve got 2016 examples of cycling marketing featuring women, please do share with me, in the comments, on twitter or on tumblr, and I’ll put up a second post. And as usual, I get no benefits, incentives or rewards for talking about these – it’s just things I personally like.
The most recent advert I loved was from Liv Cycling, part of their #ActuallyICan campaign. In my defense, I was feeling ill when I saw it, but it really did give me a lump in my throat – the moment when the cyclist stopped, looking exhausted, and then carried on. It sounds so cheesy, but done so well. I love the different kinds of women, and the way it shows what’s awesome about achieving in sport.
One of the things that made me fall in love with Mountain Bike was getting to see all these extraordinary landscapes, all over the world – and the Cairns round is incredible. It’s in the Australian rainforest, with all the snakes, spiders, stinging-trees and difficult conditions that comes with that – although this year it was damp, rather than 2014’s torrential (for the women, at least!). But beautiful! And the other reason I fell so hard for the sport is that the media is fantastic. Here’s my collection of videos, photos and more fun stuff from the 2016 Downhill Round 2, and first Cross Country World Cup of 2016.
Downhill World Cup #2
Let’s start with the amazing Red Bull Bike coverage – we can watch the full race replay (top 6 women, and top 20 men) over here. I love the winner’s interview (no spoilers!) around the 33:15 mark – and I really love the Red Bull video highlights too.
There’s more highlights here:
But there’s so much more!
This week we catch up on the Basque races with Durango Durango, and all the stages of Emakumeen Bira. There’s a couple of Dutch races blown (pun intended) apart and then there’s Dan’s annual rant about the race that we should be able to see live but can’t (oh Flèche Wallonne, we’re still not going to buy you a beer). But Sarah maintains her resolution to see the half-full part of the glass and we prove that as we look ahead to the MTB action in Cairns and all the racing in the week ahead. It’s a huge episode packed full of great highlights, amazing races and really interesting results. Enjoy! (1:23:33 MIN / 76.5 MB)
Things we talked about
This week’s racing
- Prologue highlights and photos from Vélofocus
- Stage 1 highlights
- Stage 2 highlights
- Stage 3 highlights
- Stage 4 – last 10k, Wiggle High5 final race report, and full live broadcast