There were times in which Leontien van Moorsel and Jeannie Longo battled against each other on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez during the Tour de France for women. There were times when Debby Mansveld won the Amstel Gold Race and Mirjam Melchers claimed victory in Milan-San Remo. It is possible! Even better, the great historical races were already there for us women. Where have they gone? Why were they cancelled? How can it be that we actually ride the same route, more or less, as the Amstel Gold Race but on a different day and time than the pro’s?
If you consider that women’s racing has improved and professionalized a lot since the age of Van Moorsel, Longo, Mansveld and Melchers, it’s even more remarkable…I admit that only the top riders can earn a good living out of racing, even though it’s still not a lot. We, the unknown gregario’s in the big teams, have to work hard to keep afloat. We have to work next to racing, or ask support from our parents or husbands. To compare, for the money Bauke Mollema earns in a month we have to race five years.
That doesn’t get us any further. We can be as professional as we are, working hard to reach our goals but in the end it all depends on the money to take our sport further. Women’s cycling doesn’t have the image or grand history the men have. But we can start building that image and make history if we start racing the famous and infamous races that are on the men’s calendar. The tv cameras and journalists are already there so it should be really easy for both the media and the public.
In Flanders they understood this and introduced Gent-Wevelgem to our race calendar. But not every race organizer is as willing as they are in Flanders. If they were, the Primavera Rosa or Amstel Gold Race for women wouldn’t have been skipped. And times have changed. We are all on twitter, Facebook and the internet. People follow us but they hardly ever get to see us actually race.
We don’t have to expect anything from the well-known race organizers, even though there are some exceptions. Therefore it’s time that the UCI takes measures into its own hands and demands that every race also feautures a women’s version. Needless to say that we would be delighted and find it extremely cool. It’s up to you mr. McQuaid.
Marijn de Vries makes excellent points, as always - head over and read the whole thing, it’s very good!