Emma Pooley has called on both the UCI and the women's peloton to do more in a bid to grow women's cycling. The British Olympic champion was speaking after an uncertain period that saw her switch from Garmin-Cervelo to the Dutch squad AA Drink-Leontien.nl.
"It's all sorted now and I'm happy with the team," Pooley told Cyclingnews from her training base in Australia. "They're keen, they want me and they're into women's cycling. They're also organised and it's a good result in the end."
Pooley and the Cervelo women's team moved to the Slipstream organisation at the end of the 2010 season. However, financial constraints meant the team could not continue under the same conditions in 2012. There are rumours that Slipstreams Sports may be contractually sponsoring the AA Drink-Leontien.nl.
Pooley will centre her season around the London Olympic Games, where she will target the time trial and compete in the road race in support of GB's sprinters.
"The Olympics are key. I've planned my season to be at my peak but there's a lot of races on the way and I won't be upset if I win races before the Olympics, obviously. The Worlds look like they'll be on a super course, too, so that's at the back of my mind as well. The Olympics come around just once every four years and a home Olympics once in your lifetime, if you're lucky. We're going to have a super strong team and I'm really looking forward to it."
UCI should step up
Pooley is one of the most decorated riders in women's cycling but despite the sport's growth over the last few years, she believes that much more should be done to help develop women's racing.
Earlier this month Australian cyclist Chloe Hosking called the UCI President, Pat Mcquaid, 'a dick' leading to a controversial apology and a fine for the rider. McQuaid refused to comment on the story during a recent trip to the Tour Down Under.
"She put it quite bluntly but the UCI isn't there to just ride on the back of the men's sport, it's also there to encourage cycling and women's cycling, they should be encouraging it. You get a strong impression that it's run by an old boys club," Pooley told Cyclingnews.
Pooley did acknowledge that the entirety of the issue wasn't just something the UCI could solve, and called on the women's peloton to become united and petition the governing body in a way that didn't involve throwing insults.
"A lot of the problems are down to the fact that there isn't much representation at the UCI from women. I think the women's peloton needs to get together and petition hard for this because a few people like me are just told they're whinging about nothing. It's not my intention to whinge and I'm grateful for the chance to do my job but I do think it could be improved. The women need to get together and argue more strongly for more women's races at men's races, and more women's teams that can attract more sponsors.
"I might well agree [with Hosking] but I've not met him so I don't really know," she continued, alluding to Hosking's remark. "It's not about what the person is like though, it's about the proof that the organisation hasn't moved women's cycling further forward. I know I sound like a raving feminist but the thing I particularly care about is women's cycling because it's my job and frankly it's a bit depressing that year after year you see teams and riders disappearing. All the while you see the governing body regulating saddle angles and what colour overshoes you're allowed to wear. They could be doing more."
Last week the UCI published the list of women's teams registered for the 2012 season, and the Olympic year has yielded a net gain of seven squads for the coming season. Despite tough economic conditions women's cycling does show small shoots of growth, however it appears that without television broadcasting, it will lack the expansion that has seen women's tennis and soccer prosper.
"It's a hard climate," admitted Pooley. "I appreciate that but it's a lot less to run a women's team. You can do that on less than a quarter of what some men are on. Going on television is a big step in that TV time is worth so much to a sponsor. But the people who tell me women's cycling isn't as interesting because it's slower, well that's total bullshit. It's not the speed of cycling that makes it interesting it's the interaction of riders, the tactics. Our races are exciting to watch, not all of them but not all men's racing is."
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