Talking about Australian women’s cycling
We take a moment to consider the ramifications of sending five riders to race for their country at the world championships… not the seven (or eight) who could be wearing green and gold later this month.
There’s going to be a recurring theme in commentary about the Australian team from now until 23 September when the elite women’s road race at the world championships is contested. The genesis of this came with the announcement of the teams for the races in Bergen later this month.
Yesterday Cycling Australia released the lists of riders who will wear the green and gold jersey at the championships and it boasts a formidable selection of cycling talent. No one is going to argue about the potential of the riders who will be racing in Bergen but there is one odd element that cannot be ignored.
There’s a discrepancy with the selection and it relates to gender – and why there are not more women racing for Australia.
RIDE spoke with former national champion, Kimberley Wells to get her perspective of what she believes is a bizarre selection.
“A lot of what Simon Jones has been quoted as saying regarding this worlds selection is flawed – and everyone can see that,” said Well about Cycling Australia’s high performance manager.
“He ties himself up in knots with his explanations… And his justifications contradict each other between the men’s and the women’s selection.”
Wells was talking from Canberra on a day off from work. She isn’t racing her bike full-time in 2017, instead she is working in the emergency department at the Canberra hospital where she is a doctor.
Even when she’s not competing, Wells – like many others in our community – keeps a close eye on news about racing. And she’s flabbergasted by yesterday’s announcement.
“I’ve been following the news and it’s certainly stirred up a bit of a response.”
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Kimberley Wells and Shara Gillow in the colours of the national team a few years ago (above). The commentary by Wells doesn’t come because she wants a place on the team in Norway, it’s because she’s frustrated by the attitude of Cycling Australia.
At the end of a season when Australia is third in the women’s world rankings and the nation boasts the Oceania champion, there is scope to field a team of eight riders. And yet Cycling Australia has nominated just five names.
Yesterday we spoke with national high performance director Simon Jones about the decision and he offered his explanation.
“We’ve just tried to pick the people that we feel are going to give Australia the best possible outcome,” said Jones. “And, on that basis, we felt five have earned that for this year.”
The reaction hasn’t been supportive even if most people recognise that the quintet selected for the women’s road race is indeed an impressive collective.
Notwithstanding the chances of Gracie Elvin, Katrin Garfoot, Shara Gillow, Sarah Roy and Amanda Spratt, it’s worth considering the options – and why Cycling Australia has decided to not take a full contingent to the 2017 worlds.
“There are some really clear discrepancies that are going on between the reasoning behind taking a full contingent for the men’s team versus not doing the same for the women’s team,” said Wells.
“Everyone is just calling a bit of BS because what they’re saying intrinsically doesn’t make sense.”
Often budgetary restraints are referenced when it comes to national team duties and most people recognise that travel to Norway doesn’t come cheap but Wells said she would happily help fund a trip for a compatriot to attend the worlds and improve the Australian team’s chances.
“I cannot believe that this is just a funding issue. I often find myself thinking that it’s a poor excuse to justify these decisions against the women,” said Wells in response to a query about the potential to fill the empty spots on the team.
“I mean, Lisen Hocking – who is the Oceania champion – is currently in Europe. She is a flight away from Norway. I would be happy to pay for her flight to Norway! It’s not entirely a funding issue.”
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Of course, there’s always more to the story and Wells made it clear in her commentary that those who did make the selection deserve to race in Bergen, that it is a formidable line-up for Australia.
“I would like to say congratulations to everyone who has been selected to represent Australia at the world championships. That is a big honour and let’s not forget the hard work and all of the good things that these people have put in towards being selected.
“It’s just a shame that it’s overshadowed by them being less supported than they deserve to be.
“It’s insane to think that sending less people makes more sense in a sporting arena.”
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Once again women’s cycling has made the news but once again it’s because it is being treated like a sideshow. Not all the riders who are in contention for a place on the team can voice their concerns. That could lead to missed opportunites in the future, but Wells believes it’s important to continue speaking out when something wrong is taking place.
“I think it is actually important to talk about it,” concluded Wells.
“It’s important to scrutinise these decisions that are made: they should be transparent and the people making these decisions should be accountable and they should be objective about what they’re doing because they’re holding people’s careers in their hands. And that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
– By Rob Arnold