Last night, my husband and I got offered last minute tickets to see Half the Road, a documentary about women’s professional cycling. I had seen the event advertised but was on the fence about going because I’m not super into professional sports and I don’t really follow pro cycling. When we were offered the tickets though, it felt like fate and therefore we went.
Well. It turns out there is a reason that I, and probably most of you, am not super into women’s professional cycling. I thought that most professional sports organizations, the NFL excluded, sort of at least pretended they wanted to see women’s sports succeed and take off. And then there is cycling, where actually, women’s professional cycling probably could really take off in a way that women’s basketball or soccer might not, and you have a governing organization that is actively discriminating against women in a way that makes no sense. Like, requiring that women only race half the distance of the men in events. (I’m not sure the exact rule, but there is also some kind of distance limit of 140 miles, and I’m sorry, but that’s just insulting because I’m pretty sure if I trained really hard I could ride 140 miles and I’m a chubby kid who was picked last in gym class.) Like requiring that a professional cycling team have 60% of it’s members under the age of 28. As a 28 year old, this is OUTRAGEOUS. This, fortunately, was changed in 2013, which means that I can still dream of becoming a professional cyclist and not worrying about being too old, at the age of 29, to break into the sport. (See above, chubby kid, picked last in gym class, but it’s good to have dreams.)
There is also the issue of pay – and this is huge. Women professional cyclists do not receive a minimum wage. Male professional cyclists do receive a minimum wage. So most female cyclists work a full time job and they train full time to race. Yet people are telling them that they couldn’t possibly compete in the Tour de France because it’s too difficult. Well, maybe it would be easier for them to complete a grueling three-week multistage ride if they could devote all of their time to training. The average female pro cyclist makes $3,000 a year from cycling. I don’t know how much your bike cost, but my pretty basic entry level road bike was $600.
As a person who has watched exactly one cycling road race in my life, and it was the extremely exciting 2012 Olympic Women’s Road Race I will now explain why I think women’s cycling is a women’s professional sport that could really make it: it’s hard to tell the difference between women’s cycling and men’s cycling. Even the riders do not look terribly different, when they are on the road, they do not seem any less fast or any less powerful, and it’s not like women’s team sports where the big complaint is “it goes too slowly”. It’s not like women’s ice hockey where there isn’t as much potential for dramatic fights – women crash in totally ugly ways, just as men do. People tune into the Tour de France. There is no evidence that suggests that nobody would tune in for a Women’s Tour de France (which used to exist and needs to exist again.) There is also no evidence that suggests that women couldn’t race with men – look at the Ironman races and Triathlons and Marathons – why do they even need to be separated by gender? Maybe just let the women in and see how it goes?
Anyway, this is supposed to be a movie review, not just a rant about the incredible sexism rampant in professional cycling. So, here is the review: this is a movie worth seeing. It’s not the greatest documentary ever made, as it’s a smidgen long and at times seemed a bit disorganized, but it’s funny and smart and will make you both very impressed and extremely angry. So! Go see it! There is probably a screening near you sometime soon. Or order yourself a home copy once they are available.