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Exclusion of British Woman for World Time Trial: A Step Back for Women’s Cycling?

Does the exclusion of a female rider for Team GB at the World Time Trial Championships 2014 signal a huge step back for women's cycling? Emma Pooley certainly thinks so.

Emma Pooley has criticized British Cycling over the absence of a female entrant for the World Time Trial Championships which will take place in Ponferrada, Spain from the 21-28 September. Meanwhile on the men’s side four British riders have been listed on the start line sheet. At a time when it seemed that the development of women’s cycling was following a positive path, is this decision a big step back?

Pooley pictured at the Commonwealth Games 2014 after taking silver in the road race. It was Pooley’s final race before retirement

Speaking to the Guardian, the 2008 Olympic Silver Medallist outlined the importance of racing with the best in the world as part of long term development saying she had ‘no chance’ at her first world championship but that the experience helped her to go on to win the title eventually.

Speaking to the Guardian, a spokesperson for British Cycling had the following explanation for the decision:

“We have chosen not to enter anyone into the elite women’s time trial event this year as we don’t believe we have a contender for a medal and we are obliged to use our resources where we have the best chance of success.”

This is an interesting stand point for the governing body.After all, are we going to see all four British male riders on the podium? Considering there are only three spots, this seems unlikely.

In 2013, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) reported women’s sports received 7% of coverage and 0.4% of the total value of commercial sponsorships.

But in 2014 there has been a certain feeling that the tide is changing. Wimbledon now offers equal prize money for women and men and the English women’s cricket team turned professional signing a two-year sponsorship deal with car brand Kia.

In the world of cycling, change is also apparent. La Course, a single stage race held on the Champs Elysees offered the equivalent prize money to the Tour de France and we were treated to a summer of women’s cycling on TV – The Women’s Tour, La Course, The Commonwealth Games and the Ride Prudential Grand Prix all graced our screens.

One voice that has been very strong in the argument for equality in cycling has been that of Olympic and World Champion rider, Nicole Cooke.

The athlete voiced her thoughts to Wales Online in July saying that British Cycling are accountable for inequality within the sport. Her main argument lies with Team Sky who she believes should have considered a women’s team far before Sir David Brailsford mentioned he was considering a women’s outfit earlier this summer following the success of La Course.

“We had everything. I was Olympic and World Road Champion, Emma Pooley was World time-trial Champion, Lizzie Armitstead was 2012 Olympic road silver medallist, there was Sharon Laws, while the gold-winning tracks girls have transferable skills,” said Cooke.

“We had everything, climbers, sprinters, stage race and one-day specialists, we could have been dominant but Sky British Cycling has always preferred to support the men at the expense of the women.”

“I find it staggering when BC is the custodian of public money, lottery-funding, yet the investment received by the men and women doesn’t seem to be split equally. There is inherent sexism in cycling, in sport.”

The allocation of funding is ever an issue when the resource is scarce and the potential uses are many. The price of a burgeoning field of athletes, both established and developing, is thorny decision on who to support, at what events and to what level.

British Cycling have commented that they are “fully committed to supporting female elite riders, and indeed women who want to cycle at all levels. Unfortunately, making difficult decisions and applying resources where there is the best chance of success is a dilemma that sport coaches worldwide have to face. Sometimes that means not fielding riders in every event.”

“We are proud of our impressive record of supporting female athletes. British women won seven golds at London 2012 and eight at Beijing 2008. Since 2008, British women have won six medals at road worlds, including three golds since 2012 in junior categories.

“Our aim to get one million more women cycling by 2020 is on track from board level to the grassroots of the sport. Women’s cycle sport is thriving – since 2012, there has been a 44% increase in the number of women-only road races and a 61% increase in the number of circuit races.”

Women’s cycling has gone from strength to strength in recent years. At last year’s World Track Championships in Cali we saw the women take home five medals, while the men came home with none. Over the weekend we saw the top three spots at the World Downhill Championships go to British women, kudos to the British men too who took the top two spots. And this is just a snapshot.

These statistics coupled with the fact that an estimated total of 750,000 people took up sport after the London 2012 Olympics, 500,000 of whom were women, would suggest that the next logical step for governing sporting bodies would be to bridge the gap of sexual inequality for funding within their sport.

In an era where we have seen so many positive steps towards the development of women’s cycling from British Cycling, with the Breeze Campaign as a fantastic example, we hope that this decision not to include a woman in the World Time Trial Championships does not signal a halt to this progress.

Team GB for the UCI Road World Championships: 

Men’s elite road race: Steve Cummings, Alex Dowsett, Andy Fenn, Chris Froome, Pete Kennaugh, David Millar, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Ben Swift, Geraint Thomas, Scott Thwaites, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Adam Yates, Simon Yates.
Men’s elite time-trial: Dowsett, Cummings, Thomas, Wiggins.
Women’s elite road race: Lizzie Armitstead, Alice Barnes, Hannah Barnes, Anna Christian, Lucy Coldwell, Lucy Garner, Nikki Harris, Annie Last, Sharon Laws.

 Also worth a read: 

How to: Get the best road bike for your budget

Sexism on the Bike: A Reader’s Experience

Sponsorship, the pro-peloton and the growth of women’s cycling

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