This fan is excited. Photo: Gruber Images

I can’t wait for women’s cycling to be boring (sometimes)

Fans just want time for a nap.

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Ruth Winder is a US Olympian (twice) and former WorldTour pro with Trek-Segafredo. She’s now watching the European peloton from afar, racing gravel and mountain bikes in the US, and penned this reflection from her new perspective.

I can’t wait for women’s cycling to be boring. Not boring because the racing itself changes, but because we, as fans, become so used to watching it live and reading about it that some of the novelty is lost.

Women’s cycling and women’s cyclists are not inherantly more exciting than their male equivalents. We simply don’t know them as well. Our glimpses are fleeting, often restricted to the final moments of shorter races and written pieces only about the riders on top. 

When I’m occasionally bored by women’s cycling, I’ll know it’s truly arrived. 

Growing up, I remember looking forward to watching the Tour each July. It’s something my parents and my grandparents loved to do. My Dad always told me, “If you had been born a boy, I would have named you Johan, after Johan Bruyneel, the man who won the Tour stage the day you were born.” Bike racing was meant to be part of my life. The professional men in the sport made it so it could be. 

My bedroom walls were covered in posters of bikes and bike racers growing up. The odd photo of Johnny Depp squeezed between the photos of bikes and of Mark Cavendish, my hero. “I only want to race bikes long enough to meet him. Then I can quit,” I used to say. He’s one of the cyclists that inspired me. (Side note… I never met him.) 

Every July I knew I could wake up and watch the Tour. I loved watching and cheering for my favorite riders. The best part of waking up early to watch The Tour (here in American time zones) is that most of the time I could fall asleep again on the couch, knowing the announcer’s excitement would wake me up when the going got good. 

Of course, you fall asleep during those boring kilometers. What else do you do as a hard-core fan that wakes up that early? Watch the whole race, like some kind of maniac? It’s not often you miss anything in the middle. The end, though, I always get excited watching the end. As they race towards the line and everything builds. Knowing who to cheer for, who to watch. I love that. 

I believe that people find women’s racing more exciting because they don’t know the women’s peloton as well, not because the racing is hugely different. It adds an element of drama. It’s not the same for those of us who have been inside it. We know the riders, we know what will happen and sometimes we know that nothing is going to happen. We are the only ones who have been afforded the opportunity to become superfans because TV coverage has historically been so poor. You had to be in it to see it.

We’ve not even been able to watch any of the women’s races for a long time. Then when you can get actual TV the coverage does not start at kilometer 0. It starts with an hour to go. It’s time for the good stuff then! The good is going and the announcers are animated. The race is exciting then. 

We’ve been watching men race on TV for my entire lifetime. It’s often predictable because we know them all so well. We cheer for our favorites and discuss with our friends who will or won’t do well based on their strengths. We are able to see them perform just about every single weekend. We know them. Well, we act like we do. I love that, so many of us love that. 

The slow build-up of a Tour de France sprint stage, the predictability that makes men’s cycling sometimes boring, that’s what I can’t wait for in women’s cycling. I want it broadcasted so much that we know them too well. So much that we can be bored, and that all the little girls in the world can have the chance to have Marianne Vos and Mark Cavendish posters on their walls. Or maybe their parents will joke that if they’d been a July baby they’d been named after the female winner of the stage on their birthday. 

When people ask me what’s next for the sport, I want boredom. Before we add more racing, let’s add more coverage. We’ve got fantastic races, and it’s getting so much better, give us fans time for a nap.

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