Women’s Racing – why is it so hard to watch?

The Women’s World Tour is back in action with the 2020 Strade Bianche, won by Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott).  Did you see it on the TV?  No, me neither.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see it, but that I could find it on any of the several hundred channels I have of digital TV.  It might have been there, but I couldn’t find it.

Cycling has been massively disrupted by the Coronovirus outbreaks, and I doubt we have seen the last of the virus or the knock-on effects it has on all sports.  Which is why when there is any sport taking place, I would expect TV companies and sponsors to leap at the chance to show the public the event in all of its glory on a mainstream channel.

Women’s sport has always taken second place to mens; in coverage, in sponsorship, and in prize money.  The argument has always been that women are less interested in sport, probably because we are made to feel that sport isn’t for us by the lack of coverage, which is therefore a vicious circle.  I don’t believe that this is true.  Personally, I have no interest what-so-ever in taking part in racing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see other women excel at something I take immense pleasure from – such as cycling.

Men who genuinely enjoy competitive sport would watch a competitive sport regardless of the gender of the participants.  There is therefore an audience, and in the time of Covid-19, when there has been an hiatus of sport to enjoy now would be the perfect opportunity to show events perhaps not seen on the wider media before.

At the moment we don’t know what races will definitely go ahead, although the men’s Tour is more than likely to take place at the end of August.  Unfortunately though, France is suffering another wave of the virus right now, with increasing infection rates, and this could yet threaten the Tour once again.  Postponed once, the biggest festival of cycling in the World, the one watched by millions from around the globe, could even be cancelled for 2020.  Another reason why you would expect coverage of as much of the women’s and men’s World Tour (and other races) to be grasped with both hands by advertisers, sponsors, and the TV.

As you can see from the Daily Telegraph chart of upcoming cycle races a lot has happened to decimate the cycling calendar.

In the UK, British Cycling recently released new guidance and details of how they intend to run events and activities going forward.  A lot of events and races have already been cancelled however, and further cancellations are still happening.  None if this is surprising under the circumstances, and many organisations, quite understandably, simply don’t want to take any risks.  With temporary lock-downs being put into place overnight due to the ‘whack a mole’ strategy for controlling the virus, any event could subject to very sudden cancellation.  It has to be remembered that there would be potentially huge financial consequences to this for organisers, and so many are choosing to delay events or remove the 2020 one from their calendars due to the uncertainty.

All this bad news however does raise the question again of why there is so little coverage of events that do take place, and why they aren’t being shown on mainstream media outlets, such as our main UK TV networks.

WToS logo horiz

Closer to home, the Women’s Tour of Scotland, which had its inaugural event just last year, has also been cancelled.  The 2019 3-day race, covered a 350km route, and attracted over 100,000 spectators finishing in Edinburgh this time last year.  It didn’t all go to plan when Stage One had to be abandoned due to torrential rain.  But as you can see from the photo blow, the event was extremely well received.

In this photo provided by PhotoSport International shows
Photo provided by PhotoSport International/John Pierce

Many organisers are struggling to get to grips with the implications of Covid-19 both in the short and the long term.  Social distancing is very difficult, if not impossible, to manage with excited spectators and this is why large events were cancelled across the globe.

There will be events that become casualties of Covid-19, disappearing from the calendar all together, but we can hope that the Women’s Tour of Scotland is not one of them.

In the meantime, all we can hope for is that there is more coverage of the events that do take place, especially the neglected women’s participatory sports.  Covid-19 is getting people on their bikes in a way we haven’t seen for generations.  Now would be a good time to maximise on this potentially new audience and supporters, and potential customers for the sponsors products.  Show us what can be achieved by those who desire to do so, show us women in sport and you never know, the effect might be quite astonishing.

*All photos by PhotoSport International/John Pierce via the Women’s Tour of Scotland Media Pack.  Photos may be subject to Copyright, please see the Tour website.

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