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Too often I hear and see the same thing on social media, “when will we be able to watch women’s cycling live?”. It’s the same old story year after year, and sometimes, just sometimes, when the right voices pipe up, someone listens. A few weeks ago, Belgium superstar Jolien D’Hoore tweeted ‘We ride the same day as the pros. A live broadcast is also always welcome’.
— Jolien D’hoore (@JolienDhoore) March 16, 2017
The tweet attracted a lot of attention on social media with 234 retweets and 807 likes, and furthered the #WeWantRVVLive Twitter campaign. Within a few days, Ronde Van Vlaanderen’s official twitter responded, ‘”Let’s make this official! There’ll be live broadcasting of the Ronde for Women, thanks to @proximus and @sporza! More info soon!”.
And just like that, we went from NO coverage to LIVE coverage, which certainly begs the question, if they could decide that quickly to show the women’s race live, why wasn’t it live in the first place?
Let’s take a look at the most recent UCI Women’s WorldTour event – which, for those just tuning in, is the top tier of the sport. With just days before Tour of Flanders, arguably the biggest cycling event in Belgium, fans and riders were getting excited and Gent-Wevelgem would be a good testing ground for the Classic ahead. The men’s and women’s races occured at the same time on largely the same course. All the infrastructure was set up for the men’s pro race, the cameras were there, the fans came out yet nothing was shown live of the women’s race, despite the fact that it was filmed for a highlights package to be shown later. The men’s live coverage didn’t even cross over to women’s finish, instead they had the commentators chatting among themselves at the finish line. As a result, cycling fans missed out on an exciting women’s finale – such a close sprint finish! – and the riders and sponsors didn’t get the publicity they deserve.
When I posed the question “I don’t understand how Flanders wasn’t live to begin with!? It is one of the most prestigious races on the women’s calendar…not only the men’s calendar” to someone who follows cycling, however isn’t an enthusiast, his answer was simple: “Perhaps there just wasn’t enough people tuning in to warrant them putting the race on live again?”
I had to stop and think for a moment. Was he right? Was that the reason that live coverage was taken away from us, when last year they broadcast the final 40km of Flanders? It definitely got me thinking, and while riding with your Ella editor Anne-Marije Rook, we continued our questioning. Whilst people are demanding better coverage of women’s cycling, what are they themselves doing to make it happen?
Sure, money talks, but so do clicks and reads. As demonstrated by the #WeWantRVVLive Twitter campaign mentioned above, social media is an extremely powerful tool as the majority of the world is connected this way. It’s how we follow everything that is going on in the world and spread information quickly.
Here are a few tips on how YOU can help us make women’s cycling bigger and better. Together, we can do this!
If you are indeed a women’s cycling fan, there are many sites, Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter feeds created to get you all your desired women’s cycling content. They provide you with the information, and in return they need you to give them a follow. Get behind websites and teams who are producing great content. Yes, you may have your favourite team, I get that, however, each team that is very active on social media, is doing something different.
Sarah Connolly has done a great job of putting out a “Who to follow” guide for all the big races, so all of you back home have an idea of what is going on with your beloved ones during the races. Trust me, I understand the frustration of refreshing the twitter feed and hoping Carlee is in the front group, or Jess Allen managed to sneak away off the front. So give Sarah Connolly a follow when you want to know “who to follow” during races.
Here’s where I get my women’s cycling content:
- Ella CyclingTips (of course!)- For all your pre- race, post race and out of race content, Ella is your go to for in-depth recaps and details of what is going on in women’s cycling around the world.
- Sarah Connolly – Women’s Cycling blogger, commentator & podcaster.
- Voxwomen– At the heart of women’s cycling. Behind the scenes. Race coverage. Global TV Show.
- Teams – Canyon-SRAM, Boels-Dolmans, Cervelo Bigla, Wiggle-High5 all do a great job with their social media content.
- @UCI_WWT – The official account of the UCI Women’s WorldTour
I will stress here how important it is to give links a “click”. When teams, riders and media outlets are approaching sponsors, it’s important to show analytics for their social media channels. Media outlets also determine how to allocate their time and resources based on what’s well read and what isn’t. Therefore, reads and clicks directly impact what content is created.
While ‘liking’ and ‘retweeting’ is all good and well, you do actually need to OPEN the links as well for it to count for anything. CLICKS are hugely important. The more clicks on a link, the better for websites, the better for attracting sponsors. Now that sounds cheap in a sense, however, if we keep saying “we want more women’s cycling” we all need to get together collectively to make it happen.
3. Listen in
Until we actually get live coverage for women’s cycling, there are a lot of media outlets where we can all enjoy getting to know our favourite riders and follow their journeys along the way. There are some really great podcasts out there too, so if you are not much of a reader, it’s easy listening on your way to work, at home or while pedaling away on the trainer.
Ella and CyclingTips do a great job, Sarah Connelly is very active as well, but my personal favourite podcast at the moment is Abby Mickey’s “Wheel talk”. From pros, to ex pros to women working in the industry – Mickey, an American professional rider, provides the stories behind the women in cycling.
Mickey and I will soon join forces to create a new podcast, so be on the lookout for the first episode, coming to a laptop or phone near you!
This goes without saying, but when streaming or TV coverage is made available, be sure to tune in to demonstrate that there is indeed a demand for women’s cycling coverage.
A note for the riders: You have a say
In general, I think that the social media presence of riders is pretty good. What I will say to riders, however, is to not be afraid to share your opinions on subjects that you think deserve to be heard. Just take at the reaction to Jolien’s tweet. You, the peloton, now have live coverage thanks to a Twitter campaign! Perhaps some of you haven’t realised just how much of a say you do have. Just imagine if collectively you all voiced your same opinion on certain issues, for example live coverage. Trust me, you will be heard. As much as we need to rely on fans for their clicks and likes, you are what can really make the push to make this sport bigger and better for not only yourselves but future generations. So get behind one another, read each other’s blogs, share each others opinions. It’s really not that hard considering how much cyclists spend on their devices in-between all the racing and training blocks.
My parting words is to “spread the word”! I think in general there are a lot of people out there doing more than there fair share to promote women’s cycling. Make sure you get you’re local clubs, friends, family and neighbours involved with our sport so we can make it even bigger and better.