On pitchforks, patience, demand, and the Tour Down Under

We’re at the first stage race of 2017, the Santos Women’s Tour, and it’s time for the first women’s cycling polemica of the season.  It’s a familiar cry, “why can’t we see more of the racing?”, with a lot of people going further, with “why can’t we watch live?”, and the familiar response that seems to chide fans for wanting more.  I have feelings about this, as you can imagine.

Let’s start with some background.  The Santos Women’s Tour (SWT) is a four-stage race alongside the men’s Tour Down Under – two crits, and two road races (one under 80km long).  It’s the first UCI road race of 2017, and has a great field that have been Down Under for winter sunshine, training camps, non-UCI races like the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic and the Aussie Road Nationals, as well as the UCI-ranked Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on 28th January.  It’s always exciting, seeing the teams in their new iterations (and new kits), and with the loss of the Tour de San Luís and the Ladies Tour of Qatar, the status has risen.

Now, although it’s nominally part of the Tour Down Under, they have different race organisers, though the sponsor, website and social media present them as two sides of the same coin – and the races are both owned by South Australian Government, which has used the Santos Women’s Tour as evidence of their commitment to promote women’s sport.  So it’s a surprise to see the men’s and women’s races treated differently.  The Pre-TDU People’s Choice Classic, the men’s crit that’s on the same course and day as the SWT Stage 2 Crit, for example, was streamed live, with two highlights videos on the Tour Down Under YouTube (one 4:21 long, and the 1:19 finish video), plus a “fan cam”, and 1:57 long winner’s interview, while at this point there’s only a 1:47 long video covering Stages 1 & 2 of the women’s race combined.  For context, compare that to the 1:34 video of the Undies Run at the race.

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2016 Vallnord MTB World cup – videos & photos, and thoughts about how the UCI shows MTB

The last MTB World Cups of 2016!  So sad to see the season end, but Vallnord was a gorgeous place to finish in – and of course, we can watch the full replay and catch tons of media and videos.  I’ll be editing more in as I see it, so leave me a comment or tell me on twitter if you find things I’ve missed.

All the results and standings from the 2016 MTB World Cup are on the UCI website – and I’ve also got some thoughts about the UCI highlights videos, and a bit of a rant about why they chose to promote DH as they do.

Downhill

The full race replay is here on Red Bull TV; and highlights, a few photos, full results and Atherton’s winning run on the Red Bull Bike report; Highlights from Trek Factory Racing:

Photo-essay on Pinkbike; lots of photos on the Vallnord website.

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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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Podcast 2016 Episode 4 – Let’s Play a Game

Podcast logoIt’s a little over a week before the spring classics which means it’s the perfect time for us to catch up on some of the cool things we’ve seen this week. Sarah challenges Dan to a game of “Is this sexist?” and we also have a surprise announcement about an exciting comeback! There’s a whole bunch of laughs and some great stuff. Sit back with your favourite whisky and have a listen! (56:28 MIN / 51.7 MB)

You can also manually download this episode from our Soundcloud, OR get automated updates via our RSS here (PLEASE NOTE: Our RSS feed location has changed and if you’ve subscribed using our previous link you will possibly/probably need to update with the new link) OR from the iTunes store here.

Things we talked about this week

We’ll put up the rules for the 2016 Unofficial Unsanctioned Social Media Jersey later in the week – but here are the posts about the 2012 version.

We didn’t talk about this, but Sarah loved this:

https://vimeo.com/155497525

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On teenaged bike cheats

Obviously, one of the biggest stories from the 2016 Cyclocross World Championships was Femke van den Driessche being caught with a motorised bike.  Of course she’s denying it (along the lines of “I sold the bike to a friend, who motorised it, and it weirdly got added to my bikes in the pits but it was nothing to do with me” – click the link, or if you understand Dutch, this video, or this video in English), and there’s a great couple of summaries about the case so far on Ella Cycling Tips and inrng, who sets out the rules and possible next steps.  I am gutted for all the u23 riders who rode their hearts out in a wonderful, historic race, the first time there’s been more than one category for the women riders.  But I’m also gutted, because when teenagers are done for doping or cheating, it always makes me really worry about them.

I should stress, I’m not saying teenagers aren’t culpable for their own actions, but I think about when I was 19, and passionate about achieving things, and made some of those mistakes that are part of growing up.  And I’m glad I was brought up to think for myself, and have an education in critical thinking – but I know that’s luck, too.  I can totally understand how kids fall under the sway of a charismatic coach or an overbearing parent – and I also can’t help remembering the stories of Genèvieve Jeanson and other riders, whose coaches doping them was just the tip of an awful iceberg.   I’m not saying that’s happening here at all, but that’s an extreme example of how sometimes riders who dope can also be victims.

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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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So important – Cyclingnews’ Genèvieve Jeanson story & podcast

This week Cyclingnews published a really important piece of journalism, that all cycling fans need to read or listen to.  It’s not an easy story to engage with, because it’s the last thing people want to think happens in a sport they love, but it’s so important we pay attention, so we can all help recognise it and work to prevent it, as fans, media, and people involved in all cycling at all levels.

Genèvieve Jeanson, in case you don’t know, was the 1999 Canadian World Junior Road Race and Time Trial Champion whose elite career came to a halt in 2005, after EPO was found in a blood test.  Jeanson later said that she’d been taking EPO since she was 16 years old, but the worst part of her story was the allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse she made against her coach, André Aubut, who, along with Maurice Duquette, the doctor who gave her the drugs, was banned from being involved in sports for life by the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport.  It’s a really harrowing story, and Jeanson isn’t the only cyclist whose story includes nasty abuse – USA rider Tammy Thomas is another rider who says her doping was entwined with being abused, and ex-Cycling Australia official Warwick Phillips was stabbed by a rider he was convicted of sexually abusing when he was coaching her as a teenager.  And of course, earlier this year the CIRC report into doping in road cycling very briefly referred to women being exploited sexually and financially in the sport, while Ukrainian rider Hanna Solovey, who was caught doping at age 19, has talked about the continual verbal abuse that kept her scared of him (original Russian, and translation on Velorooms).

Jeanson’s story has been told in a French-language book by Alain Gravel, L’affaire Jeanson : l’engrenage, and a film, La Petite Reine  inspired by her life, but there hasn’t been an English-language interview with her since the original doping story broke, until now, when journalist Kirsten Frattini met Jeanson at the 2015 Road World Championships, and interviewed her for the Cyclingnews podcast.  You can listen to that interview here, and for people who don’t do podcasts, there’s an article below it, that not only goes into detail about Jeanson’s story, but also talks to other people involved in the sport who talk about what they saw of the public aspects.  They’ve also published some of the follow-up questions Frattini had after the podcast interview, and that is great journalism.  I genuinely think this is the most important cycling story that’s been published this year.

The thing that I think upset me most about this story was all the people who were corroborating the physical and emotional abuse.  I can make guesses that maybe some of the young riders just didn’t know what to do about it – especially as some of this abuse seems so public, race officials and other responsible adults involved in cycling must have seen it too, and didn’t stop it – so I just have to take my hat off to Frattani for including a list of resources at the end of her article, where people can get help on issues of violence, abuse and doping.  They’re Canadian-based, as Jeanson and Frattani are, so I’ve added a list of UK resources at the bottom of this article too.

What we can all do to prevent this kind of awful story happening in the future is to be aware of the issues (and recognise that while these public stories are about girls and women, abuse also happens to boys and men) and if we’re worried about anyone in our lives, take action.  There are some excellent organisations providing help, and there’s never any harm done in asking “Is this ok?” and “Is this something I should act on?”.   We should see what our Cycling Federations have to say about child protection, and if we’re not satisfied, ask them to do more – and the big Federations and anti-doping agencies need to be mindful that sometimes doping and abuse are entwined, so that they can recognise that doping might be part of a bigger problem, and provide support, especially to young and vulnerable athletes.  Abuse, including blackmail and threats about doping, is never ok, and doesn’t belong in our sport.

Resources

  • What to do if you’re worried a child or young adult is at risk of, sexual abuse – resources for children and young people (Childline) and for adults (NSPCC)
  • This is Abuse website – aimed at young people, but useful for everyone to help identify abuse, and find support
  • Childline – 24 hour counselling and support for children and young people
  • The NSPCC’s Child Protection In Sport site, which includes ways to raise sports-specific concerns, as well as support for organisations and clubs around prevention
  • British Cycling’s Safeguarding policies, including a link for reporting concerns, and their Equality Policy, which includes harassment.

These are all UK resources, but Olympic.org, the official website of the Olympic movement, has a portal on sexual harassment in sport that includes how to spot it, international resources, and what people can expect sports federations to do about harassment and abuse.