“Riding like a girl” – is cycling sexist?

So a couple of weeks ago Oleg Tinkov, owner of pro team Tinkoff-Saxo published a tweet that stated Chris Froome was ‘riding like a girl’ in the Vuelta. Yes, that bloke who rather convincingly won the Tour de France was, in Tinkov’s opinion, riding very poorly and that equated with a female cyclist. Chris Froome’s inferior female-style performance turned out to be a broken ankle, and an apology was duly issued to Froome – but there was no apology for Tinkov slur on women. Not surprisingly, this attracted quite a lot of social media attention, further fired by Tinkov saying that ‘women’s cycling needs to be forgotten’.

Womens cycling event

We all know that many sports are male-dominated, and cycling is no different. Cycling has to fight for decent TV coverage as it is, but men’s pro races will always take preference (it’s not a complaint as such, watching the Tour de France every day was addictive!). Positive criticism of women’s cycling suggests that unless female events are given greater priority there will be no incentive for women to enter the sport, therefore it will not grow. It then stands to reason that less women will feel motivated to take it up at recreational level.

Go out for a spin on a weekend and I’ll bet that you see many more male cyclists than female. Is it because it’s harder for women who are also mothers to get out of the house? Is it that cycling just doesn’t appeal? Is it the thought of keeping safe on the roads? Is it lack of confidence at their ability? Does the thought of wearing lycra fill some women with dread? Do they dread the possibility of ridicule and verbal abuse if they’re carrying some excess weight (sadly, it happens)? Is it the frightening statistics of deaths amongst female cyclists who commute to work? I wouldn’t like to hazard a definitive answer. But the fact is: there are many more men cycling than women.

Over 25,000 cyclists took part in this year’s Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. Of those, approximately 20,000 were men, with approximately 5,000 women in the field – that’s a ratio of 4:1. Yes, it’s a lottery as to who gets in, but that ratio must surely indicate that far less women are attracted to events of this kind. Thank goodness, then, for the likes of the Breeze Network, which aims to get more women cycling and the Macmillan Cycletta series (even if a few chaps decided to get involved in one of the events) ... read more.

And there are also some fantastic role models out there – from the professional riders such as Laura Trott, Joanna Rowsell, Dani King, Marianne Vos and the now retired Victoria Pendleton (who now acts as an ambassador for women’s cycling) to the unknowns such as Sue Pugh who has just completed the 3,000-mile Race Across Europe and is the first woman to do so. If that’s what ‘riding like a girl’ looks like, everyone – including Tinkov – really should take notice!

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