Women’s cycling: we’re creating our own history

Wiggle Honda teamFemale cyclists have to be more proactive when it comes to attracting publicity. Rochelle Gilmore explains how her team is racing for equality as well as medals.

When I entered the cycling world over a decade ago, I had a goal of creating a women’s international professional cycling team. My first step was to found my own domestic team in Australia, the Dream Team, and I used all my knowledge and experience from operating on this smaller scale to prepare myself to grow the team into an international sporting entity.

My relationships with the team’s partners developed over the years, and they became our biggest supporters as we went on to be a success. I wanted to create something revolutionary for women’s professional cycling and I knew that wasn’t going to happen overnight, but I wasn’t going to compromise on that goal in the meantime.

I believe that success comes as a result of confident decision-making and the willingness to take full responsibility for the outcome of those decisions. Women have a lot of value to offer business at the highest level and the conventional barriers we have faced are slowly being dismantled.

Success and hard work

Any woman who is prepared to work hard can achieve the kind of success I’ve achieved in a male-dominated industry. Yet we can’t afford to be short-sighted in our business approach, by chasing opportunities that offer only the most immediate financial returns. We need to be thinking much more long-term – I’m taking a 20-year approach to making women’s cycling a success and I know what it will take to achieve that.

We need to be looking at creating the kind of relationships that we can grow and develop into long-standing partnerships. I am guiding and educating my athletes in a way that’s different to most traditional managers, by focusing on the long-term benefits for female athletes and the sport of women’s cycling.

Comparisons with men’s cycling

I don’t focus too much on the comparison with men’s cycling – I see them as entirely separate sports. I regard what the men do as a benchmark for us to aspire to, and a set of guidelines for how to elevate our own sport to reach that level, both on and off the bike.

We learn from the men about how to make women’s racing exciting, we watch how they operate and fine tune our tactics based on what they do – for example we’ll analyse the lead-out trains in the Tour de France and look to emulate those tactics in our own races.

Female cyclists are ultimately more proactive in attracting publicity for our sport – we have to be, because the media attention currently given to women’s cycling is so much less than what the men receive. Women are very business-minded and we know that in the current situation we have to do more than just ride a bike in order to attract media attention, and consequently more public interest and sponsorship investment, which the sport needs in order to develop.

Media attention

In comparison, men’s cycling is at a stage where winning races is enough to attract publicity. Female athletes are assets to the sport because they bring with them not only their athletic performance, but their education as well – they see the sport as a business career.

It’s true that in terms of professional racing men’s cycling has a much longer history. But as our sport continues to develop and our racing calendar becomes more stable, our events will start to become as prestigious as the men’s, and we’ll create our own history.

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Rachel C. , PhD
Research Scientist Consultant @ U-VIB
PhD, Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling
NREMT-P (National Registry of Paramedics)
– 911 Medic for over 15 years
– Scientist for over 7 years
– Runner for LIFE

source: The Guardian

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Categories: cyclist, Sports

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