WE DESERVE BETTER
It’s the beginning of 2018 and we all have our New Year’s resolutions.
This column appears in every edition of Ride. Cashandra Slingerland won the African TT championship in 2009 and, although officially retired, she continues to race, albeit a few age categories below her ID book, to give the youngsters grief.
I am seeing a lot of women taking up cycling; the gyms and their Wattbikes are full, and the spinning classes are packed (mostly with women). Bike sales have gone up and, again mostly in the shape of women, there are first-timers in the sport. They have seen and heard so much about our sport at dinner parties and get-togethers, they now want to join this new trend. This is awesome news for everyone involved.
But why are we seeing so few of the women at the local races? Are they asked to watch the kids rather than participate? Come on guys, take a turn, let your other halves have a chance at this wonderful sport we love so much, or are you worried that she will enjoy it so much and improve and start to kick your butt?
We need to start focusing on the female side of the sport. Ladies have a higher pain threshold and endurance capability than the men, it’s in our genes. Sorry, but this is true and scientifically proven. We have no young riders coming up the ladder, looking at our racing ladies; the women on the podium are from the age group 30 and up, and even retired women racers are now stepping back into the light.
What can clubs and associations do to ensure the girls and women get to enjoy and want to participate in their local races?
Most women are intimidated by the testosterone in the racing fields, men shouting and cussing each other if they don’t keep their lines, for those extra five seconds on the finish line. We should be able to offer women-only start groups. In the open categories, women don’t necessarily want to race with the men but still want to enjoy the event, adrenaline and vibe (those who want to take it more seriously can join the licensed ladies group).
Sponsorship has declined within the ladies racing group. Why? Do you see any footage of the ladies racing; do you hear the winners’ names announced anywhere? Why not? Because they reckon it’s uninteresting. Yet, how are the ladies supposed to shine when the cameras only show up for the last 2km of the race? What about the previous 95km when the ladies jostled in the breakaway? We see none of it.
I think it comes down to media and the organisers respecting the women’s racing field. When they hold the prize giving after the race, they need to be respectful and hand out the ladies’ prizes timeously (most ladies have to get home to their children). They frequently hand out these much later, and often for half the amount of prize money.
When we can get the organisers to respect women riders, we will see the sport grow, and a lot more ladies will become interested and invest time in the sport. Sponsors will be begging to be represented in the women’s field.
Let’s make it happen.