The furore surrounding the allegations of bullying and discrimination that led to the resignation of Great Britain's technical director, Shane Sutton, cast its shadow across the pre-Tour de Yorkshire press conference. After Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity and race director Christian Prudhomme had talked up the second edition of the event, which includes a hugely improved women's race that has attracted many of the world's best riders, British Olympic champion Dani King was asked about her Yorkshire debut, but also about her experiences during her years on Team GB's track programme.
King said she hadn't experienced any sexism during her time on Team GB's track programme, but added that the stories now coming out of the woodwork in Manchester are symptomatic of more pervasive sexism right across cycle sport. "When it comes to things like sponsorship and media coverage, I think that something like 0.5% of sponsorship goes to women's racing and we get about 5% of the media coverage," she said.
"That is something that needs to be addressed. Hopefully, events like the Tour de Yorkshire are just starting that change and they can only be a positive thing moving forwards. We're going to have the same parcours and the same prize money as the men, which I think is what we deserve. It would be good to see other race organisers do the same, and I think it will be a turning point."
Asked specifically about allegations of bullying and sexism made against Sutton by track sprinter Jess Varnish, Wiggle-High5's King said: "I think it's really sad and I feel for Jess. She's a good friend of mine. I was on the programme with her for a long time."
Of her own working relationship with Sutton, King said: "Shane's a no-nonsense kind of guy. You always knew where you stood with him. He would always tell you how it was, but I thought that was good. When it came to motivation, he was one of the best I've come across.
"It's hard to say why he was, but he just seemed to know what to say at the right time and he always gave you belief come race day. I was always someone who doubted myself, someone who didn't have real self-belief, and that's something he really helped me with."
King said she believes that Britain's riders will miss the Australian at the Rio Olympics this summer to an extent, but not overly so as their preparations for the Games are now so advanced. "He's a great motivator, so when it comes to Rio that's definitely what they're going to miss. But I think his loss would have been felt more if it had happened six months ago. They all know what they're doing now and I don't think it will have an affect come race day," she said.
Looking ahead to her first appearance in the Yorkshire race, King admitted that the Wiggle-High5 team had already been struck by the levels of the support the fledgling race attracts. "There were kids out screaming today and we were only doing a recce. It was absolutely brilliant to see," she said.
"I think races like this that run alongside the men's – Flèche Wallonne, Flanders – are the most important ones on the calendar. We do get that kind of support on the road. And to get equal prize money is what we deserve. We're full-time athletes and work just as hard as the men. Having the same media coverage as well is good because that's so important."