Peloton Watch
  Unfortunate Week For Womens Cycling  
  May 13th 2013  
  There are many known inequalities between the men's and women's peloton, however within the past week women's cycling has suffered two major problems that further highlight this.

First lets begin with the Tour of Chongming Island. A relatively new race but one that attracts more teams each year. A three day stage race is held before the fifth round of the Women's World Cup. All was going to plan in the World Cup heading in to the final kilometres. The peloton was chasing down Tetyana Riabchenko who was leading solo until disaster struck. With 1.2 kilometres to go when the peloton turned in the wrong direction. The corner was not marshalled and by the time the mistake was realised the race had been lost. The peloton crossed the line just 12 seconds behind the race winner, a considerable time less than had been lost with the confusion.

While this is not the first time a cycling race has been directed the wrong way it had considerably larger consequences than most. There are only eight rounds of the Women's World Cup (7 if you take out the TTT) and the only real race for the sprinters is the Chongming Island World Cup. The hopes of the sprinters for a World Cup win in 2013 were taken away due to a poor organisational decision. While some responsibly has to be placed on the riders to know the course there are escorts ahead of the peloton and corners like that should be marshalled.

To make matters worse with the race being held in China the costs for the European teams are considerably higher than a European race. For teams to travel that distance and the higher costs, teams and riders are justified in feeling robbed of a chance to race for the win.

A number of teams complained to race organisers. ORICA-AIS DS Dave McPartland reported that he received an apology but that results would stand. That was really the only possible outcome as it would be unfair to take the win off a rider who had done nothing wrong. With a world cup round teams will not want to miss the race but next year, but will some teams think twice about attending as they prefer to allocate their limited budgets elsewhere?

Secondly is the fiasco surrounding the Tour Languedoc Roussillon in France. I am sure many people will remember the race was cancelled last year as well. The decision was made earlier but not until after many teams had booked airfares and accommodation. This year the situation was much worse. In the months leading up to the race it was on, then off, then definitely on and then the day before the race it was cancelled.

With the race due to start on Friday many teams had already arrived with the remaining teams on their way. Word came through on Thursday that the race had been cancelled. Initially the reason why was unclear but thought to be due to financial constraints. Eventually it was learnt it was due to the police not willing do preparatory work as they had not been paid their deposit.

Again it is not uncommon for races to be cancelled. Many men's races have been cancelled in 2013 due to budget issues, however the decisions are generally made well in advance. Cancelling races at the last minute puts further unnecessary pressure on women's teams. A number of the top teams had already made the decision not to participate after the issues of last year.

It was also revealed that the race jury had not been paid. Late Thursday race organisers told teams they should stay as a sponsor had been found and the race would start on Saturday. However a number of teams had already had enough and started to leave on Thursday evening or Friday morning. At the time of writing no further information was available on if the race would definitely start on Saturday or not.

There was calls on twitter for race organisers to cover team costs but with the race organisation lacking the money to hold they race it is unlikely any funds were available to pay teams even if they were inclined to do so.

Throughout both these issues, with the second obviously much more important the UCI has remained silent. To the best of my knowledge the UCI did not comment on the issue at Chongming Island World Cup and have remained equally silent on the cancellation of Tour Languedoc Roussillon. For the international cycling body to remain silent on this is an insult to Women's cycling. The riders, teams and fans deserve better than this.

The situation in China is a problem that can easily be fixed and next year the race organisers will hopefully make sure marshals are in all the necessary locations. The Tour Languedoc Roussillon has been cancelled the past two years with great expense to teams on both occasions. The race should not under any circumstances be placed on the calendar for 2014 with the current organisers unless a guarantee can be provided several months in advance that sufficient funds exist to hold the race.

This may not sound like a big issue to the casual observer but women's team budgets are already limited and avoidable issues like this deprive the teams of funds to allocate to participating in other races, equipment, training camps and salaries etc. All stakeholders - teams, organisers and the UCI are punished by these issues but two of those have been largely silent.
 © 2016