The 2011 season has been thick with cries for equal prize payouts, race coverage and the expansion of women’s trade teams. With that fresh in the mind of The Insider, I sat down to take in the live coverage of the final laps of the Women’s World Road Race Championship in Copenhagen.
Normally I enjoy the commentary of British Eurosport, especially because they include Sean “King” Kelly. Side note: Kelly was an idol of mine as I tapped out the miles in my early junior years. However as I poured a mug of my freshly-brewed Italian roast coffee (foreshadowing?) and read my Twitter streams, I began to hear the comments, “boring,” “uninspired,” “overly tactical,” etc. While I understand that the racing was less than explosive, if we are honest with ourselves we kind of knew that coming in, as all of the news reports and armchair directors sportif were picking the top end sprinters in both the men’s and women’s fields to shine.
What cycling fans need to keep in mind while drawing comparisons between men’s and women’s racing, is that the same tactics are being employed, or at least are trying to be, but the depth of talent runs deeper in the men’s fields based simply on field size. As you watch online it is easy to say, “The sprinter’s teams should launch riders up the road to get the other teams to chase.” In theory, yes, that is normally how it’s done. The World’s race is different in the sense that these are selection-based national teams and not the trade team squads that are used to racing together as a unit. We must also keep in mind that even the racers might want to have the race come down to a field sprint. From what I was able to see, the moves didn’t stick for a lack of trying. Each move was basically neutralized by the field easily signaling “we want to ride tempo and sprint for the win.” What in the world is wrong with that? That type of riding happens all the time in men’s racing – attack, catch, attack, catch. Or the dreaded robotic and calculated-from-the-team-car breakaway catch 5kms from the line.
But let’s circle back around to the main topic – women’s racing. We are watching the top tier of women’s cycling – live! I was under the impression that is what we all wanted. By having a live stream we are giving exposure to the pinnacle of talent on the women’s side of our sport and that is never a bad thing.
While all of the grumbling was occurring online and from around the course, the Karma police decided to pull us over and freeze up race feeds until the last half lap of the race. I just had to sit back and laugh. While the day’s biggest break was riding away from the field we were brought to a screeching halt. Universe-1 Pundits-0.
I hold to the belief that live online streaming of races is still a luxury and we should be thankful for the ability to catch glimpses of the sport we love so dearly, even if we sometimes get caught in the purgatory known as buffering. We should also be thankful that we are experiencing equal (remember that word?) coverage of the women’s events from Juniors, to the time trial, and all the way up to the Elites.
Let’s not gender “neutralize” our sport.