I have previewed the men’s event and it is only right to do the same for the women. Women’s cycling is at something of a crossroads I feel. On the one hand it is very much on the up in the UK, like cycling generally – the women’s track team have had as much success as the men and the medals are recognised and appreciated by the public. However, at the same time the women’s sport is some way short of equality, especially on the road, and this is also the case globally. There is lack of TV coverage and fewer top-level races, and subsequently the sponsors are not there in the same numbers. Garmin felt it had to disband its women’s squad and Team Sky has come under criticism for not fielding a female team – it’s not as if the money and British talent are not available – Emma Pooley quit top level racing due to a lack of support.
There is a strong movement and community on the women’s scene with people like Sarah Connolly going out of her way to promote things with her twitter feed and the blogs and podcasts she contributes to. (Her weekly slot on the Eurosport cycling podcast is a round-up of women’s racing.) UK teams like Matrix Fitnes Academy have been set up to specifcally develop the women’s sport and north of the border we have the Breast Cancer Care team that is linked to Scottish Cycling’s women’s programme.
To show due respect to a women’s race preview, I have enlisted the help of Leigh Marshall, who is able to provide much better informed comments than me. She is involved in publicity for Team Breast Cancer Care and writes her own Filles a Velo blog.
I asked Leigh for her predictions and she thought it is a difficult one to call, but gave me some info on about 10 riders who she thought were the ones to watch.
“Although the field isn’t massive, an important factor is that it is a pretty high-quality championship field. In some years half the field has been there just to make up the numbers and as a result have been punted out the back pretty quickly. In the case of last year, dropped riders got themselves together in another group further back and worked together – a race within a race which worked really well.”
There are 33 on the start sheet and this is a good reflection of the current standard of women’s road racing in Scotland. Leigh said “The bar is constantly rising and being pushed upwards. The women’s road race academy that was run this year has helped that, along with the other women’s races that have been on the calendar so far.”
In terms of young riders to watch, Leigh highlights Flora Gillies (Team ASL360, below), who is having a great start to her season. “She’s really holding her own in the women’s peloton.”