Our dear friend Adelaidefatboy* raised an excellent point in the previous post, and it leads perfectly into where I wanted to go next in our exploration of the nature of team structures. I mentioned three key things that I wanted us to begin to address in our understanding of cycling in general and women’s cycling specifically. The first of these was the notion of professionalism.
I think that there are two aspects of professionalism that need to be (re)considered when it comes to women’s cycling. Firstly, I think we need to question what it is to be a professional cyclist. I won’t belabour this point too strongly as Stef Wyman has covered it brilliantly in his piece on this matter for Cyclismas.
Suffice it to say that I think it’s very much an important part of the broader conversation that we all bear in mind there are still many women “professionals” who are partly or entirely self-funded. Who ride bikes they’ve bought and paid for themselves. Who aren’t supplied with matching kit or various forms of support and assistance.
Let me be clear, this has nothing to do with the talent, dedication, commitment or work of these women. They almost certainly are professional in every respect of their working lives, probably more than professional given the constraints that they have to work with. The point is that it’s misleading to call that level of organisation professional and act as if we can’t do better. Of course we can do better, and I believe that we all want to do better.
So in the first post of this series we set about getting the lay of the funding landscape and exploring some of the bigger problems that teams face in trying to secure money and the stability that money allegedly provides them and (by extension) their riders and staff.
The reason I started there, with an overview that most people didn’t need, is because I wanted to highlight some serious but not-directly-financial issues that are impacting on the financial realities for teams (and to acknowledge that they exist for men and women, although the consequences and circumstances are more severe for women). This is important because we’re now going to stroll through some of the cultural, social and psychological issues that I think are at play and what we need to do in order to change them for the positive.
First of all I think there’s a real disconnect in the way that we mentally consider teams, particularly at the top level (World Tour) of the sport. Teams don’t exist as charities or non-profit organisations (although they may not turn an actual profit). Ostensibly we’re talking about professional sport here and as such, it’s expected that certain standards and conditions will be applied to riders, staff and the team structure in order to be deemed professional.
So it’s far less of a demand to add a condition for a minimum salary to a team than (for example) the UCI spokesperson mentioned previously may want you to believe.
Episode 5 – The Definition of Professional (originally posted 14 June 2012)
This week we discuss the value of ‘modesty panels’ on kits. Sarah makes the case for the superiority of women’s cycling over men’s. I lose my shit and we discuss the future of women’s race broadcasting. Sarah also risks the ire of the Murdoch empire (be wary if you intend to call her phone) and she “accidentally” ruins my crazy idea of the week. We work together on a definition of professional and I explain my stealth philosophy of riding. I take a moment to address the issues as a deeply conflicted heterosexual man and we work out a plan that just might capture the elusive teen male audience. (32:31min / 29.7MB)