As the pedals of the peloton begin turning for the inaugural Women’s Tour of Britain, British Cycling President Bob Howden discusses what this landmark race means for women’s cycling.
It is with great excitement that we welcome the Women’s Tour to the UK.
As the first major international women’s stage race to take place in this country, I’m sure it will be a fantastic addition to the racing calendar and my hope is that it becomes a mainstay of the national and international season for many years. Improving women’s sport has quite rightly risen up the sporting and political agenda, most noticeably since London 2012, and at British Cycling we are working to increase the number of women entering our sport at all levels. Despite it being very early days, we are already making significant progress in our attempts to bring parity to our sport at all levels. Last year we launched our strategy to get one million more women cycling by 2020 and we have made great strides in transforming the culture of the sport within the first 12 months. An unprecedented rise in the number of opportunities to ride and race and a move towards equal prize money is helping to successfully tackle the historical gender imbalance and drive cultural and structural change across the sport.
In short, more women are cycling for transport, leisure or competition and British Cycling programmes are at the heart of all these avenues.
The inaugural running of the event comes with women’s domestic cycling on the increase in Britain. The number of female British Cycling licence holders has increased by 23% in the last year with a 44% increase in the number of women-only road races and a 66% increase in the number of circuit races between 2012 and 2013.
This is happening as more and more women are also taking up recreational cycling through our Breeze and Sky Ride programmes with over 450,000 women taking part in a British Cycling programme last year.
Inpsiring new riders
We’re very optimistic for the future of women’s cycling, especially as our Go-Ride programme – that provides entry-level racing for under 16s – has a near equal gender split in participation with young girls accounting for nearly 40% of those taking part.
If the Women’s Tour can continue to inspire women and girls to want to take up cycling, then we are confident that we have the programmes and the expertise to help people progress. Especially for the Women’s Tour, British Cycling’s female-only rides programme, Breeze, is running special rides for women and girls who want to get back on their bikes and enjoy life on two wheels.
We have every faith that the Women’s Tour will become a major annual event for our sport, not only shining a light for cycling in this country, but also by providing a positive example for the rest of the world to follow.
For now though, let’s enjoy the racing and make it an event to remember!