My spellcheck should brace itself, the Spring Classics are here!
The end of February saw the commencement of the 2016 Spring Classics – a series of spectacular one-day races throughout northern Europe. Known as Belgian week, the first major race of the season was Omloop Het Nieuwsblad followed by Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne the following day. Amazingly several riders from the first race fronted up to contend the race on the second day. Legs of steel !
The 5 monuments races are the oldest established one-day races, considered the most prestigious. In March the Spring Classics returned with the first Monument of the season, Milan-San Remo, and from there the races come thick and faster than you can watch via free-to-air with Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders, my sentimental favourite Paris-Roubaix and the Ardennes Classics – Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Somewhere in there they also manage to wedge the Strade Bianchi and seven days for each of Paris-Nice and the Tirreno-Adriatico. There's a lot happening all at once.
So it is about this time that I regretfully have to stop looking at the front page of any newspaper, printed or online, and I have to forgo my morning shower accompaniment of listening to Triple J; it’s a tricky balance down here in cycling's third-world; we complain about the lack of cycling coverage, but when media do try to cover the races, they invariably go overboard and spoil the results for those of us who haven't watched last nights coverage yet.
With all of this glorious viewing ahead of us, let’s have a timely reminder that this year’s most striking images of women in cycling are again going to be the male winners of the races and ‘their’ living trophies, the Podium Girls. There are so many women in sports who actually earn their places on the podium, yet our predominant viewing is of women acting as nothing more than cheerleaders for male athletes.
It is only a year ago that this utterly inane advertising campaign was unleashed upon the world
Are you lot for frikkin' real??
And tell me how this display is relevant to women’s cycling ?
Not to mention this excruciating embarrassment, #facepalm.
Presenting an award or a trophy to the winner of a race, especially with the way the races are so highly esteemed in Europe, must be one of the most exciting opportunities for any lover of the sport; so let’s give it to a junior cyclist, to an up and coming rider who will be truly appreciative of the opportunity to not only be near their heroes, but to present them with an award, be in a photo together, to shake hands and share that podium for even a few minutes.
I love that since 2000 in professional soccer, both boys and girls dressed in team kits have escorted the players out onto the pitch, I can think of no better way to foster the next generations love of their chosen sport.
Of course it didn’t take long for corporate pimp McDonalds to get into metaphorical bed with that aging raddled whore FIFA, to get their hands on this charming tradition and plaster their logo of shame all over the kids shirts, but y'know, it's one ethical battle at a time.
And for those who protest, who love the podium girl tradition, I say, yeah, I actually love some of the race or segment-themed dresses too, amongst the tacky literal adaptions there are some truly beautifully crafted interpretations (I’ll leave it to reader discretion as to which you think this is)
And I do always involuntarily laugh at the statuesque beauties paired with a tiny male climber that they could easily tuck under one arm and run off with, but y'know ...
I love equality and respect more.
People (men) often bring up the examples of riders who go on to marry a podium girl. I can think of two actual instances of this, and I am really happy that they met and are in love, but two or twenty or two-hundred examples of wedded bliss do not justify the ongoing objectification of an entire gender, they just don’t.
I mean, I’ve heard some arranged marriages work out well too.