An open letter to Oleg Tinkov

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Dear Mr. Tinkov:

We don’t follow you on Twitter. In fact, we tend to pay as little attention as possible to anyone who uses a public forum to spew racist, homophobic and sexist comments. Instead, we focus our attention on those that are attempting to advance the sport –the whole sport — in a positive manner.

We do follow Bigla Cycling on Twitter. When they retweeted Finnish champion’s Lotta Lepisto’s tweet to you, we found ourselves curious enough to investigate:

We discovered that you spent the afternoon mocking Team Sky rider Chris Froome following his crash in the neutral section of Vuelta a España stage 11. As he struggled, while injured, to rejoin the peloton, you hurled insults at him, including the suggestion that Froome was “riding like a girl.” When Lepistö fired back, you returned with the following:

Even if you’re tweeting in your non-native tongue, your take on women’s cycling is not lost in translation. This is far from the first time you’ve lashed out against women’s professional cycling. We still vividly remember this gem from two years ago:

Because of the context and your past behaviour, we’re well-aware that to your “ride like a girl” lacks our empowered and celebratory spin on the phrase. We watched as Froome valiantly pedalled toward the finish on a brutal day in the mountains, and we thought – you’re right. Froome is riding like a girl.

He is fighting hard. He is ignoring his pain for the sake of a greater goal. He is suffering over climbs and down technical descents to make it to the finish line. He’s doing something that he loves even though he probably doesn’t love it all that much right now.

Froome didn’t quit. He gave it his everything. And even though today wasn’t his best result, we had a deep appreciation for his effort. We’re proud of girls (and boys and men and women) that show such courage, tenacity and heart.

Mr. Tinkov, by choosing to accuse someone of “riding like a girl” as a means to belittle, you knowingly contribute to the notion that doing something, anything, “like a girl” is an insult. But “like a girl” is not an insult because nothing about being a girl or woman is humiliating, weak or shameful.

Most riders can only dream about being as successful as Marianne Vos, as talented across disciplines as Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, as aggressive and full of attacks as Evie Stevens, as reliable as Emma Johansson, as well-respected as Giorgia Bronzini, as integral to a teammate’s success as Lucinda Brand, as consistent as Lizzie Armitstead or as dominant as Anna van der Breggen and Jolien d’Hoore have been this season.

We sincerely hope that the riders sporting your name on their jerseys and the cycling fans supporting the team you back, do not share your attitude toward women. Your funding provides opportunities for riders and staff to build a career in men’s cycling. In supporting one side of the sport, however, there’s no need to tear down the other.

Anne-Marije Rook and Jessi Braverman
Ella CyclingTips co-editors