Following the announcement that Twenty20 Cycling Co. are backing the womens Koppenberg Cross in 2014, to create the GP Twenty20 Cycling, and in doing so providing equal prize money for the women riders in a European C1 cyclocross for the first time, I wanted to confirm my thoughts on this progress for the sport.
The first step is often the biggest
I consider myself to be in a privileged position. Not only am I a paid professional cyclist (Which in womens cycling is rare enough), but Im in a position to influence the future of the sport. I recently became a member of the UCI cyclocross commission alongside a great group of people, ALL keen to develop our sport. Outside of the commission however, Im still keen to do more for the sport and over the past few months Ive been working with a group of extremely progressive thinking people about helping our sport take the first step to equality in Europe.
It might surprise people to know these are all men, and they are race organisers, and they are Belgian. Now Belgians have a pretty bad reputation, particularly in the press, about advancing the rights of women in cycling. But with these guys, everything I mentioned, they embraced, they even took ideas further. I can confirm the Koppenberg Cross committee is a forward thinking group, trying to bring womens racing up to speed as quickly as they possibly can.
This is just one race, its not the entire sport. But its a start. Its no baby step, this is a great big stride in the right direction. I look at the ladder of progress that lies ahead for the sport and it has a lot of steps. The early steps are big but they build the foundation and this in my opinion puts womens cross in Europe firmly up one step. I would actually say there are two ladders for us to reach the summit of the sports potential. One is the more political ladder; the cross commission are working very hard to progress the sport. Everyone on the commission is pro womens cycling. We are all trying to move the sport forward and are trying to make the correct changes that ensure the long-term progression, stability and sustainability of the sport. The other ladder is just people getting stuck in. It includes riders, organisers, the media and fans doing all they can to help the sport. No one person holds the keys.
I want change now. I want the next generation of riders to see they have a bright future. I want them to demand more, and want them to do that now. Im impatient for change and when an opportunity to discuss a potential advance in the sport came up with the Koppenberg Committee I took it. Plans were made, no barriers found, and a fantastic backer for the event was found, in Twenty20 Cycling Co., Baltimore.
America Meets Europe
I race for an America team, Kona. I love the USA, and I love the racing there. I have spent part of 4 of my last 5 seasons in the USA. Last year I made three racing trips to the USA. Cross in the USA is different to Europe; its participation driven, rather than spectator driven. Its a new, diverse scene of enthusiastic promoters, racers and media. Its exciting, and if Im honest the European scene needs to look to America for examples as much as visa-versa.
Ive raced on the West Coast, Las Vegas (Which is unlike any other place on earth), the East Coast and also in the big space in the middle. These races have been hugely different. But all of them have one thing in common: Equality. Could you imagine going to a race in the USA and getting told women cant park in the race side parking! There would be riots. Sometimes, the way us women racers get treated in Europe is a disgrace. Its beyond belief, it needs to change, and it needs to change now.
So welcome to the scene Kris Auer. Kris is the co-owner of Twenty20 Cycling Co. Kris, along with Adam Myerson were largely responsible for my successful transition into American racing. To coin an American phrase, these guys hooked me up. Kris runs a fantastic race in a great venue. Like many of the venues Ive been to in America, there is no reason the race couldnt be a World Cup in the future. Kris, unlike many of the European race promoters, isnt doing this for profit. He is driven to give back. When I contacted Kris about the chance to work with the Koppenberg Cross he never hesitated, and I guess the GP Twenty20 Cycling was born.
This race is more than equal prize money. I dont like to beat the drum of prize money; I feel womens cycling needs opportunities to prove its worth more than just money pumped into a broken system. It needs a platform and that is what Kris and the Koppenberg Cross are doing. They are committed to giving every opportunity for women racers to compete on a level playing field; we will even have equal parking! Whod of thought?
This is our chance to start a revolution. A chance to change the thinking of European organisers. A chance to change the expectation and opportunity for the current riders. Maybe most importantly its a step on the ladder of hope that the next generation of riders can flourish in a great sport, anywhere in the world they choose to race.
GP Twenty20 Cycling is firmly on my race planner for 2014. Mark your diaries; 1st November is a landmark in European Womens cyclocross.
If you are a fan of women’s cycling, or the Koppenberg Cross I urge you to follow both Twenty20 Cycling and Koppenberg Cross on twitter to show your support. You’ll be surprised how far this simple act goes to developing out sport.
Twenty20 Cycling: www.twenty20cycling.com
bpost bank trofee: www.bpostbanktrofee.be