While cycling fans enjoyed an exciting day of racing at the opening stage of the first Women’s WorldTour race of the season, Itzulia Women, won by Demi Vollering, the race director, Julián Eraso, was reported to have told Radio Marca Bilbao that he was “casi” (almost) “forced” to organise the race.
In the same interview, Eraso called the increased number of women’s races a “fashion” saying “we have almost been forced to organise it. This is a matter of fashion. In the end… Equality, such… The discourse… Everyone says that things have to be done for women’s sport and it has also affected cycling.”
As a result of Eraso’s comments, the official Twitter account of the race issued a statement saying that the organisation ‘regrets any misunderstanding and unease generated and hopes that the unfortunate comments made by Julián Eraso…do not tarnish the excellent progress made by the arrival of the Itzulia Women amongst the ecosystem of races that make up the international women’s cycling calendar.”
Understandably, Eraso’s comments drew the ire of various Basque political and sporting figures who denounced the organiser’s comments as “machismo” (sexism).
Maider Etxebarría, deputy mayor of the autonomous region of Vitoria, said: “Well, no, Mr. Julián Eraso, equality is NOT a fad. Women, for the simple fact of being women, face inequalities. And that is why we will continue to defend women’s sports.”
Eraso’s comments come at a time when women’s cycling is in a period of rapid growth and a subsequent increase in exposure and interest. With the Women’s WorldTour calendar expanded to 71 race days and more races being added to the calendar such as Paris Roubaix Femmes and the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
Itzulia Women continues tomorrow with a 117.9km stage around the town of Mallabia.