One part of my job that I absolutely love, and that I know I’m lucky I get to experience, is the chance to attend amazing events. This summer, I was invited to attend La Course in Paris with bicycle company Specialized along with a group of other female journalists.
La Course is a significant event in the world of women’s road cycling. The one day event, which takes place on the iconic Champs Elysées on the same day as the finale stage of the Tour de France, came about by the dedicated campaigning of a group of female cyclists.
Le Tour Entier was a campaign founded by Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley, Chrissie Wellington and Kathryn Bertine to call for a women’s race at the Tour de France, the biggest cycling event in the world. Over 97,000 people signed the petition, and in 2014 the first ever La Course race was held.
Cheering on the Champs Elysées
There is something quite magical and strange about walking into a place that is so familiar through watching it online and on the telly. I should imagine visiting downtown Los Angeles would feel similar. Clutching our guest tickets (and after a spot of understandably strict security wrangling) we walked out across the cobbled road at the Place de la Concorde to the La Course pits with various team vans and busses, plus the raked stand that gave us outstanding views straight down the Champs Elysées towards the Arc du Triomphe.
I’d been at La Course in 2015, when the wet weather and cloudy skies meant that everyone was wrapped up warm and wishing they’d brought umbrellas. The riders in 2015 rode amazingly, with several hard crashes on the wet cobbles demonstrating just how hard this event is. In a complete contrast, 2016 was blisteringly hot. I was glad the stand had a roof and sides to keep the sun off, and that I’d plastered on the factor 50 sunscreen.
Watching 121 women compete to the highest level in a test of strength, skill and strategy is breathtaking. Lap after lap they flew over the cobbled surface, 13 laps in the relentless sunshine, 89km of hard riding – impressive stuff.
After a close race with several big crashes, Australian Chloe Hosking of Wiggle High5 took the win in a nail-biting bunch sprint finish, just beating Lotta Lepisto (Cervelo Bigla) and Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) to the final straight.
Loads of female cycling journalists
There were over 10 female sports journalists on the trip, the majority of which work specifically in cycling and represent some of the biggest cycling websites and magazines in the UK and worldwide, including Ella Cycling Tips, Total Women’s Cycling, Bicycling and Cycling Active.
So as much as La Course is a sign that things are changing for the pro women’s peloton, that change is also being reflected in the people making up the media side of the bike industry, the people writing about the riding, deciding what to cover, and how to cover it. Are the two connected? Undoubtedly, but I can’t say how much one has influenced the other without doing a bit more digging and pondering. What I will say is that there is a greater percentage of women in the bike media than there once was, and that as the it seems that that percentage growth seems to echo the growth in support and coverage for pro women’s cycling, and the growth of women’s cycling in general.
The numbers are still low, and female bike journalists are still very much in the minority. However, I should also give kudos to Specialized for organising an event specifically for female journalists. Quite often women’s content and news is either released only as a press release or at the same time as the men’s. While the latter isn’t a problem in itself, it means that the predominantly male journalist contingent in attendance will focus more attention on the men’s/unisex bikes and the women’s product gets overlooked. Now, without getting into the whole ‘do women need women’s bike’ discussion – which I have something planned on further down the line – it is a problem in that the women’s product becomes something of an afterthought. So while it is obviously in Specialized’s interest to cultivate relationships with female journalists, it also demonstrates that the women’s cycling market is one that the big companies see significant potential in, otherwise they wouldn’t be inviting us female journalists out to events like that, right?
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