• One of the most sexist things in cycling is the great discrepancy between men's and women's road racing distance (and often difficulty) as well as the lack of women's races, especially high-profile ones (honourable exceptions apply here).

    The situation has improved very slightly since the documentary 'Half the Road' by Kathryn Bertine (2014), but not nearly enough--there still aren't any women's equivalents of any of the Grand Tours or most of the major Classics, for instance.


  • I'm also really interested in this claim that has been quite prominent in the context of ultra-racing for a while now, that women tend to have greater endurance potential than men, who tend to be larger and stronger but not as enduring. It may well be that this difference can only manifest itself over very long distances, e.g. as in ultra-racing, but it is quite ironic that the old stereotype of the weak(er) woman still persists (if you watch 'Half the Road' you'll hear some amazing examples of this) in respect of race length, when that may fly in the face of what is actually the case.

  • women tend to have greater endurance potential than men

    Is this true? I hadn't head this before.

    Muscle density differences between men and women mean mens racing is always going to be faster, which makes it more attractive but if there's something that gives women's cycling an advantage would certainly have the potential to improve the appalling discrepancies between how men and womens cycling is treated. Although at least it isn't as bad as football.

  • Well, I don't know if it's true, which is why I said it's a claim at this stage. It does make sense to me (I think that both men and women must have physical strengths and weaknesses), but it's really up to women racers to provide the (hopefully increasing) evidence. :)

  • Had a really eye opening chat with a now retired track cycling professional while teaching her to skateboard last weekend. The disparity in contracts & team resources had been a huge frustration and seemed to be a pretty major reason that she'd predominantly stayed on the track throughout her cycling career. I suppose that I'd been aware of the lack of fairness prior to this, but it really hit home that extremely talented people are exiting the sport and possibly steering clear of cycling altogether as the disparity in funding and sponsorship is so stark

  • With the Euro champs having been on at my work I've been hearing a fair bit of chat on this subject over the last couple of weeks and the most surprising thing I heard has been more than just the one female cyclist saying they don't watch women's racing as they find it boring (compared to men's racing).

  • There is a problem with this, irrespective of physiology.

    As there are fewer women who race than men, in order to get a full field of riders, women’s races have a much wider range of abilities than men’s races. If you’ve ever watched, on the ground, not on telly) a major women’s race e.g. national championship or European championship, you would have seen that the women’s race has blown apart after a couple of laps, compared to the men’s race which stays together until much nearer the finish. This is because difference between the fastest and slowest women is much greater than between the fast and slow men. And that’s on a race that’s half the distance of the men’s race. So you can imagine how spread out a women’s race would be racing the men’s distance. I’ve no doubt the world’s elite women could complete a 3 week grand tour but there simply aren’t enough elite women to make full field of 180 riders.

  • Doesn't even have to be a major race. Even the womens track crit at the Nocturne was all over the shop. Yoav has summed it up perfectly, for me.

  • Well, erm, yes, but the reason for all that is the aforementioned set of problems that there's less pay, fewer opportunities, and a good deal of sexism. Complaining about the current disparity of ability won't fix that--increasing the opportunities and making it possible for more people to earn a living from sport will. Then more women will actively work towards it as a career from a young age and you'll see the gap closing pretty quickly.

  • Agreed. It wasn’t really a complaint. Just pointing out why, at present, it’s not really on to make women’s and men’s races equally hard.

    The Tour de Yorkshire organisers are going about it the right way, by having the same prize money, and gradually increasing the severity of the women’s race.

  • I don't think anyone expects the change to be sudden rather than gradual, but it would be nice if there actually was a discernible gradual change rather than mostly backsliding (with the Tour of Yorkshire an honourable exception).

  • I think the problem with the olympics is that the UCI is totally outgunned by the IOC and the organising committee in deciding things like the road race course. I don’t know if the UCI happily went along or argued against it but I bet in the end, they had to accept it, like it or not.

  • Well, erm, yes, but the reason for all that is the aforementioned set of problems that there's less pay, fewer opportunities, and a good deal of sexism

    I think it's a plain business decision really - there's not enough people interested in watching women's racing hence less pay, fewer opportunities etc
    I think it's going to have to come from the grass roots level to start to grow women's racing.

  • Yes, but you have to break that self-perpetuating cycle somehow.

    I'd love it if it worked with a subtle but persistent development at grassroots level, but I don't really think that will happen on its own. There have to be high-profile events, too. Look at tennis--the sexism levelled against Billie Jean King proved a catalyst. She was obviously helped by being a better player than Bobby Riggs. :) I don't think I want some total sexist like that to come along to race against Marianne Vos or someone else who's good, but I do hope that there will be some iconic event that advances things a bit.

    (Obviously, tennis is more of an individual sport than road cycling (as opposed to some kinds of track cycling) and there is still the problem of cycling being related to a not-very-popular form of transport at the moment, so it's not exactly directly comparable.)

  • This is interesting--no doubt the shorter courses for women attract a different type of rider, not so much the all-out endurance types.


  • It may well be that this difference can only manifest itself over very long distances, e.g. as in ultra-racing

    I've done a fair bit of dot watching and it seems rare to see women win or even be competitive with the fastest men.

    Although, it has happened (Lael being an example), so maybe there's just not enough women having a go to identify the outliers whereas the male pool is much larger so it's more likely to contain at least one man who performs at a level far above the rest of the riders.

  • Yes, Lael's ride is so far the only one that stands out. I'm still curious as to what will happen if more women take up endurance riding. So far, I think the pool of available talent is quite small.

  • On the topic of women being stronger at ultra distances this is a fantastic example:

    Courtney Dauwalter finished the Moab 240 race in 2 days, 9 hours, and 59 minutes. She was faster than any of the men in the pack, beating the second-place finisher by more than 10 hours.


  • Good point. Running is much more well-established as a sport for women than cycling. I heard Fiona Oakes speak a few years ago, and while probably not in the same league as Courtney Dauwalter, she is an amazing runner. She's faced a good deal of hostility from male runners for beating them (and being vegan while doing it).

  • I think it's a plain business decision really - there's not enough people interested in watching women's racing

    When I used to live in Toronto, every other person you knew was in at least one band. Everyone was trying to get a bit more rep so that they could climb up the running order. It was quite common then that you'd get invited along to a gig at a bar where your mates were the support act on the understanding that once they'd finished their set, you'd be moving on to another bar. They didn't want the bar managers/promoters to assume you'd come early for the headliners so they tried to rig the room to show who the support was for. It was a fairly powerful statement if half the back room walked off half way through the night and booze sales dropped accordingly.

    When you get multiple races on the same day, particularly crits, cross and track, I wonder how many race organisers think you're there mainly for the headline race and think you're watching the lead up as a side attraction? It would be good if there was an easy way to show the organisers that you're at least as interested in the women's race as the men's.

  • The FT also had an interesting article about women in ultra-endurance sport, using Paris's win as the hook; it name-checked Lael Wilcox.

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'Half the Road'--movement for equality between men's and women's road racing

Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick