• Op-Ed: Amgen TOC Women’s TT

    by  • March 20, 2013 • opinionate

    The Amgen TOC Women’s Invitation TT always seems to split the community on whether it is a good project or misguided one.  On one hand it brings much needed publicity and crowds to see a women’s event.  On the other hand it’s a paltry bone thrown to women riders striving for equality.  I asked around a few of the women racers that have contributed to NCCN in the past and put together their opinions on this years event and the riders that were invited. The race generates strong feelings both for and against.  Flandria was so annoyed by it she wouldn’t even comment.  

    Heather Neilsen
    Rider: Fremont Bank
    Coach @http://www.ridempowered.com

    I’m confused…..

    Maybe I’m misinformed about what the entire goal of the Amgen TT women’s invitational is but I was under the impression that it was to showcase the best women in the sport of road racing who have proven to be talented time trialists so as to give more media attention to women’s cycling which will hopefully increase the general public’s awareness of women’s racing in general.

    Some of them like Stevens, Neben & Tetrick are no-brainers – a few of the best Time Trialists in the United States. When I look at the rest of the list I honestly had to look up some of the names and a few of them don’t even focus on road cycling.  I’m not downplaying some of these women’s athletic ability in the least; but the list in general leads me to think that the organizers don’t have a clear vision or direction.  Are we promoting women? Women’s racing? Time trialing? Women athletes in general?

    Also….I am going to be MOST interested in the follow up.  If my memory serves me correctly it’s the same story: They announce the list, everyone’s excited, there’s ‘some’ media coverage, they do the TT then…. [ed. note - i'm inserting silence here]

    The follow through is everything. What will it mean? What does Amgen plan on doing with the results to promote women/racing/cycling/athletes/time trailing

     

    Bec Werner
    Rider: Specialized Women SA Team

    So the Women’s Invitational TT at the ToC has been announced again for 2013. I glanced at the headline, saw the participants, and to be honest didn’t give it much more thought. There was plenty of complaining from people behind a keyboard, but hey, I figured they were just bitter they hadn’t got an invite. Look on the bright side, they’re putting on a women’s race again. Cool. At least they’re doing something in a time when many races are falling by the wayside.

    This was as much thought as I gave it, before going back to more important things like polishing my Tom Boonen figurine. (Yes, you can buy Tom Boonen in miniature plastic form)

    Then I was asked to write an opinion on the event. But I don’t have one! So I put down my polishing cloth, actually read the press release, and well, now I kinda do.

    My attitude above is one that I’m sure many at times have been guilty of. We’ve come to accept that women’s cycling is ‘inferior’ to men’s, and therefore are happy to settle for any kind of support we can get. Something is better than nothing, right? The fact is, if we want women’s cycling (and sport in general) to improve, we can’t settle and accept mediocrity, we have to keep pushing for better.

    Yes, it’s great that the ToC have included a women’s event. No one can deny they’ve invited a talented field of women who are no doubt great ambassadors and examples for the sport, but to be honest, the concept hasn’t progressed at all since last year. Adding 5 riders to bring the total number of competitors to 15 doesn’t exactly count as progress in my eyes.

    To quote directly from the race organiser’s press release –

     “We are honored to host another worldwide showcase for the best women in the sport today, and to provide even more depth and thrills for the millions of fans who will tune in that week.”

    So they haven’t exactly lied. They are technically providing more depth. But more thrills? Seriously? I’m not exactly the world’s number one fan of time trials, but surely this can’t been seen as the best way to showcase the sport and attract more fans.

    Tom Boonen figurines aren’t flying off the shelves because some kid has seen him ticking away at a time trial, any emotion hidden behind his aero helmet, with no idea apart from the clock how his ‘race’ against the other riders is actually going.

    If we want to see kids playing with ‘Evie’ or ‘Ina’ action figures, or for that matter riding a bike themselves, we need to capture the imagination of fans and draw them in with the beauty of real head to head, edge of your seat, unpredictable bike racing. That is what will grow the sport.

    I’m not saying that with a snap of the fingers things should be totally equal with the men’s race. We need to earn that right through demand, but to gather demand we need real support and progressive thinking from the organizers   If they can put up $10,000 for prize money for a select field of 15 women in a time trial, why not open that up to 5 times the competitors with a crit or one day race that would provide a thrilling and exciting spectacle, showcasing a multitude of riding styles.

    If the men’s tour was simply a time trial, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be where it is today. So let’s be thankful for what we have, but not content, and hopefully some day soon I’ll have more important things to do than writing this article – like polishing my Ina Teutenberg figurine.

     

    Bed Turns
    Dude that Lives In Wisconsin

    Generally I fall into the camp that any race that increases exposure is great as long as it doesn’t involve a rider on one side of the street racing a horse on the other side of the street.  I think the Amgen TOC TT is a great idea and one of the few attempts of a promoter that triads to hold a Women’s event concurrent with the mens, Philly and CX being the only other examples i can think of.  Sure it falls into gimmicky but this is cycling, it’s a circus on a good day.

    Then I saw the press release and at first glance I was a little surprised and dismissive of the field but then i got to thinking this could be a cool race.  Tetrick, Powers, Neben, Stevens, Ina are all top notch and world class TTers any day of the week.  Shaw and Wilcoxsen could be huge surprises.  Mara Abbott is a big name but her come back is unknown at this point, this is a great test.  Walle and McGrath are gonna ride well and be huge stars in the near future so this is good exposure for them, and us.  Jasmin Glaesser is a trackie but she’ll probably translate well to a short TT course.  Farina and Miller are outclassed by the talent in this TT field but they are so good with the press,  fans, and sponsors I’d put them in any race just to hear them talk.  Katie Compton seems totally out of left field but  is intriguing. What if, just what if, she decided to take on Vos on the road.  That could be cool.  Plus I’d go see Compton race anywhere.

    I suppose my only complaint then is Julie Dibens.  Fucking triathletes.  She better not crash everybody out.

    So to sum up, I briefly thought this race was gonna suck and then I realized it was going be cool, when it could totally  super awesome cool if they opened like a real UCI TT event and dropped some real coin on the purse to draw random Euros.  Frankly, I don’t think AEG will ever try to hold a commensurate women’s event.  We’ll be lucky if the Tour of California is still around once Amgen’s commitment is over. As fans we are better off turning our attention to races like the Nature Valley Grand Prix that offer an equal challenge, than to pick apart a celebrity race which is providing exposure to undervalued athletes.

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    Former NorCal resident now residing in Madison,Wisconsin. I race cross, but I'm named after a velodrome. Support your local bike shop, NorCal race promoters, and go learn to race on a track. Hellyer Velodrome - http://www.ridethetrack.com

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