Dipping in and out of the coverage of Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice over the last week — while exciting to watch — began to feel more like a chore rather than an enjoyable way to consume sport.
Flicking between one race and the other (and frequently getting confused as to who was competing where) it struck me that the way Jumbo-Visma could contest the GC in both races (before poor old Roglič came a cropper) would simply be logistically impossible for women’s teams.
Photo credit: Cor Vos/SWPix.com
It’s not a new concept, to run two full teams at concurrent stage races, let alone contest the overall at both. It would, however, require rosters and budgets that surpass the limitations of most women’s teams.
But that’s fine.
This is the double-edged sword of women’s cycling — much of what makes it so brilliant is also, unfortunately, a product of it being chronically under-funded and undervalued.
While a dearth of racing opportunities and reduced rosters for the women are clearly not to be celebrated, an overlapping calendar is equally undesirable. Because here’s the thing: I don’t want to have to experience the FOMO inherent in trying to follow two stage races at once with women’s racing, too.
Discussions within women’s cycling around how to grow the sport often warn against traversing the same path as the men’s — usually with good reason — and in this particular case, the men can keep their clashing calendar.
The reduced number of women’s races elevates the ones that actually go ahead. Even without a Coronavirus-ravaged early season, fewer women’s races means that the very best of the women’s peloton show up to lower level races such as the 1.2 GP Oetingen last Sunday, where Marianne Vos took third.
Forgetting even the fan perspective, the fact that the sport’s financial model relies on sponsor exposure through televised footage is something that women’s teams know all too well. The fight to see more live images of women’s races has been going on for years. Why then, as either a sponsor or a fan, would you ever want to have the TV coverage of one race cannibalising the other?
Photo credit: Alex Whitehead/SWPix.com
The world of women’s cycling is small and the protagonists are easy to follow and relate to. Keeping up with women’s cycling — while it might require trawling through Twitter in the absence of live coverage — does not usually require keeping track of multiple races at once.
Fans are better able to get to know the characters in the women’s peloton and maintain the broader narrative of the season so far without taking up permanent residence in front of their TV or computer.
In one regard, I hope that women’s cycling grows to the point that I am scrambling to fire up an aged iPad to watch one women’s stage race, while the other plays out on a TV in front of me. On the other hand, I would prefer to be able to take in every moment of the exhilarating action at each women’s race as it happens without missing what’s happening elsewhere.
Following women’s racing doesn’t feel like a part-time job, and that’s no bad thing. Yes, more races are necessary to grow the sport, just don’t put them on at the same time.