Change the women's cycling world

It's been an interesting off season to say the least. They say that one thing is constant in life,...

January 10, 2009

It's been an interesting off season to say the least. They say that one thing is constant in life, "change". Well, I can now say THEY are right….who are they anyways?

I tried my first round of off-road racing this fall…EVER! If you know me you know that I am partial to pavement. I have never really ridden on more than a rail trail and I used to squeal at the sight of snow on the roads or gravel. Well, it did not take more than one cold wet and muddy day at the local Hamilton cross race (the day after I learned how to jump on and off the bike 100 times and could barely walk by the end of my first "clinic" – thanks to Eric Box) for me to be hooked!

My husband Malcolm could not get over it watching me race that first day! He had never seen me laugh during a race before! Nor had I. But when you have never jumped off a bike at speed or ridden in mud over barriers and you launch into both in the same day, you have to laugh at yourself. I was ridiculous. And I loved every minute of it.

The combination of the relaxed atmosphere, a totally new "game" and no expectations had me glowing all the way home about this sport of Psycho Cross…it rocks. And of course it had me saying "I guess I should practice?"

The season progressed locally and every race I improved by about 40%! I wish road gains kept coming at this rate! Before long I had a few wins under my belt and some close battles for second with some strong local women. All in good fun! Next year I plan to train! I love this sport and I love the dirt and the mud. Cyclo-cross rocks!

Well, on the topic of change I decided that I needed one and this fall I left my team of two years, Team Kenda Tire. Thanks so much to the team for all the support and I am glad to say I have some great friends from the time with Kenda. But I felt it was time for a change. This was a tough move, knowing that it was late in the fall and the likelihood of a team for me was not high. But sometimes change is enough to light your spark. And sometimes, the unknown can bring great opportunities if you have a positive attitude.

As of now I will be guest riding for 09. It's been a huge learning experience though, this whole "team search". It has led to many conversations about the world of women's cycling and the state of our peloton's support and although I often bang my head against a wall wondering if my time will come, I now know that many women have the same battles. Some people get on great teams right out of the gates, others not so much but, we all have our journey and each for our own reasons.

I was working in Ottawa this fall for a weekend and I went for sushi. I was eating alone and so was the man beside me. We got to talking and he was there on business doing a talk on art history. After back and forth about what we do he was intrigued about women's racing. We got to the topic of comparing the women's to the men's peloton. At one point when he was obviously surprised that there was so much women's professional racing, I said to him, "listen I am not a feminist but the imbalance of support between the men's and women's pelotons is truly embarrassing to our dedication to the sport" he looked at me and stopped me and said "Why aren't you a feminist? You need to fight for these rights, don't you train as hard? Aren't you as committed?"

Yes we are. I guess my point was that I was not going to make the world listen to me and my strong opinions if they did not want to. But if they did….sure, listen up!

So, why is it really? Professional female cyclists give up their social lives in the season, miss weddings, weekends, late nights out, the option to skip workouts when feeling lazy, travel long days and race jetlagged, just like the men….but we don't have the support? Why is it that a professional male cyclist can make $50,000 or $300,000 and some of the best racers in North America can make only $5000 or $10,000? Don't get me wrong. I respect the men's peloton. I know what most professional cyclist put into this sport, the time, attention to small details, the mental ups and downs, fatigue of travel, the pressure to succeed. But I can't help but get frustrated that half the women's peloton also has to work a job on the side to race full time. And that companies seem to have no problem sponsoring millions of dollars to men's teams but so many companies won't sponsor a program like USWCDP with $100,000. If they only knew what that amount of money could do to help professional women cyclists. That money could change the USA women's peloton for real!

So while my own life is changing, and my team has changed, or does not exist, I can keep my head up, because at the end of the day when I am done with the self pity, I always come out positive and strong. But when the lack of support for women's cycling as a whole does not seem to change, now this creates waves inside that make me want to speak out loud. Because I know that all of us women train our asses off, too. And that we are great role models for sponsors. We too are truly committed athletes. We sweat just as much and suffer just as many hours turning the pedals.

So if you are reading this and supporting a woman's team never really crossed your mind as a sponsor, maybe its time to make a change? Remember change is constant. Join the rest of the world and make some changes. A little support for the peloton goes a long way. You have no idea the impact you could make. The gratitude you would receive and the pride that women would have racing for you.

And so I venture into '09 with little idea of what it has to bring. Will I find a team to race with? I have no idea. Will guest riding turn out to be an amazing opportunity? I hope so. Will I race in Europe? USA? South America? Who knows. I just know I will be ready for whatever it brings. Things will likely change from today anyways…..that I know for sure.

Happy New Year! Happy Training

Anne Guzman

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