Taken from the Blazing Saddles Column in the Tayside Courier Weekend Supplement 6.10.12
Scot Tares considers the potential effects of discrimination in the sport of cycling
“Women who love mud too much have what it takes to transform mountain biking from a boy’s club to a human’s club”― Jacquie Phelan
From the time of Beryl Burton, (who over three decades was not only the best female cyclist in the UK but, was one of the best cyclists in the UK and a multiple World Champion) to Lucy Garner,(who a few weeks ago successfully retained her Junior World Road Race title), the UK has produced some of the finest female cyclists in the world. Nicole Cooke, Lizzie Armitstead, Shanaze Read, Sarah Storey and Rachel Atherton are just a few of the many British female cyclists who are competing and winning at an elite level in all cycling disciplines. With that success, you would imagine fame and fortune to be guaranteed, which it is to some degree, but when compared to their male counterparts, there is a vast chasm of parity between the sexes.
It is a topic that was highlighted by Lizzie Armitstead after winning her silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, but she is just one of a growing number of top female riders who are becoming fed-up with the lack of equality in competitive cycling. This discrimination is most keenly seen with the lack of top level racing opportunities for women and this cascades down with less media attention, less prize money fewer sponsorship opportunities and so on. There are many facets to the problem and as such, many groups who share the burden of blame, including the media, race organisers and the UCI (the cycling world governing body). However, at a time when schools are actively trying to get girls to be more active and participate in sport, it is not helpful to see such discrimination lie at the heart of our professional sport. British Cycling is hinting at the possibility of a UK based women’s professional road team, but whereas the men’s team has been sponsored by a massive multinational media corporation for several years, it seems, for the women the cogs in the machine turn a lot slower and it may be some time before a British women’s team is up and running.
Looking at the bigger picture, this is not just about producing world champions, which cannot be denied is fantastic for cycling in the UK, but also, it is about producing positive role-models for young girls and giving them something to aspire to. Cycling is a great equaliser between men and women and as Beryl Burton so unequivocally proved often provides a sport where women can beat the men. If we want to encourage more people to get out on bikes our sport has to provide an environment that is inclusive to all, from the grass roots level to the very top step of the podium.
Where to Ride: Deuchany Bike park, Perth
|Where to ride: Deuchny Woods, Perth
Mixed ability mountain bike trails
|Location:||OS Landranger Map 58 NO 145 237|
|Details:||Deuchny Woods are situated to the east of Perth and are a fantastic location for all abilities of mountain bikers. The forest tracks lead around the hill and can be extended to other trails that lead down to Scone. For the more adventurous there is a mix of more technical single track trails and a downhill free ride section.|
Copyright DC Thompson 2012