International Women’s Day by Erica Leonard

Why keeping women in sport is important to me:

When I was a kid, I was brought up knowing that I could do anything that I set my mind to. My mom and dad would call me supergirl and cheer me on relentlessly. I knew that regardless of what life threw at me, I was unstoppable if I was on a bike.

When I started racing and training in my early teens, this mindset changed, and I began to feel like I was a lesser athlete somehow. I was getting put in the B groups and suddenly considered part of the “beginner group” for training rides. I was still winning races, coming top three; when I was 16, I was even national champion, but I always was put in the slower groups at training camps. Here’s what I learned to believe as a young female cyclist/athlete.

  • Being a girl in cycling means that you’re slower than the boys.
  • Being a girl in cycling means you start second to the boys.
  • Being a girl in cycling means that you might get prize money, depending on the turnout, which is deemed fair.
  • Being a girl in cycling means occasionally mistaken as a male because additional women’s kits are too expensive.
  • Being a girl in sport means that you go on the shorter beginner rides because you won’t keep up with the experienced boys.

BUT!

Girls aren’t slower than boys; we ride differently. Sometimes women’s races are even more exciting than the men’s and are worthy of getting the main event time slot! Women’s event prioritization is finally being recognized by some race organizers like The Silver Goose.

While some events and races offer equal payouts for men and women, we still have lots of work to do; refer to @thecyclistalliance’s Instagram for more info.

There are plenty of great women’s kits that don’t make you look like you have a package and won’t give you saddle sores. Let’s decrease minimum orders for the ladies, please! Thank you, Jakroo!

We need change and support in our sport to see the number of female athletes grow. Why should a woman enter a sport knowing that it caters to men? The answer isn’t to pay women more than men or make men wear women’s chamois! It’s equality. Now for some positives:

  • Being a girl also means that when you do something cool, the whole room stops for a moment to appreciate how badass you are.
  • Being a girl in cycling also means that you are healthy and strong.
  • Being a girl in cycling also means that each success means so much more because you are a fighter. Being a girl in sport means that you get to be a role model for all women.
  • Being a girl in sport means that you are a fierce athlete and an inspiration!
  • Being a girl in cycling means that you are helping another girl see that she has the potential to get a bike, to whip down big MTB descents, to tour the Spanish islands, or even to crawl around in the mud at a cyclocross race.

Be the change you want to see in the world and STAY ON YOUR BIKE!!! Happy International Women’s Day!

Photos by: Jody Wilson Photography