Sexism in cycling is hitting new heights with Nicole Cooke's new book 'The Breakaway' which is being exclusively serialised on Wales Online. She is pulling no punches and holding no bars when it comes to her sport and the inequalities still being faced. Although retired from an incredible career that saw her take gold in the Olympics, and numerous wins in the World Championships, World Cup, Tour de France and Tour of Italy, she is not retiring from the issues at hand. Seeing the industry as being 'rife with sexism' she also questions the desire of some sports governing bodies to catch drug cheats.
This isn't a new topic however and has come into light this week with Brailsford, Team Sky Manager, stating that he wants to create a female Sky Team for next years Tour de France. This is great news for Cycletta, a series of women-only mass cycling events fronted by Olympian Victoria Pendleton. By the end of 2013 more than 7,000 women had taken part in Cyclette, lending weight to research from British Cycling. This research showed that women are more likely to cycle if they can do so with member of their own sex and of equal ability. As the sport's governing body is hoping to get one million more women on bikes by 2020 it is important that athletes such as Cooke and Pendleton are heard.
Although Brailsford has shown interest in forming a women's Sky Team, Cooke claims that the failure of such a thing is down to fear of the women's being more successful than then men's team. Cooke believes that lip-service is being paid to women in this male-dominated sport and is delighted that Welsh stars Elinor Barker and Becky James are following in her wake by already winning world titles.
Speaking to Wales Online about why there is talk about a women's Sky Team and why there hasn't been one in the past Cooke says:
“Because the women were more successful and would have continued to be more successful than the men. We had everything. I was Olympic and world road champion, Emma Pooley was world time-trial champion, Lizzie Armitstead was 2012 Olympic road silver medallist, there was Sharon Laws, while the gold-winning tracks girls have transferable skills.
“We had everything, climbers, sprinters, stage race and one-day specialists, we could have been dominant but Sky British Cycling has always preferred to support the men at the expense of the women.
“I find it staggering when BC is the custodian of public money, lottery-funding, yet the investment received by the men and women doesn’t seem to be split equally.
“There is inherent sexism in cycling, in sport.”
Although Cooke may make valuable points, Team Sky is only four years old and it could be argued, still in its development stages. This was the first year that a women's version of the Tour de France was run and thankfully inequalities in cycling are being addressed in some areas.
Cooke's strong stance has to be valued and appreciated, especially speaking out so vocally in a male-dominated world. I wonder if this book will do the world of women's cycling any favours, or if it will be treated as the stereotypical 'nagging' feminist. Time shall tell.