Giorgia Bronzini: “My advice to young women would be to take up another sport”
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Monday, November 07, 2011

Giorgia Bronzini: “My advice to young women would be to take up another sport”

by Ben Atkins at 12:05 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
 
Women’s World champion follows Italian champion in condemnation of gender inequality in cycling

giorgia bronziniGiorgia Bronzini’s World championship victory in Copenhagen, Denmark, last month saw the 28-year-old from Piacenza successfully defend the rainbow jersey that she had taken in Geelong, Australia, the previous year. in an interview with la Gazzetta dello Sport though, Bronzini echoed the comments made by Italian champion Noemi Cantele last week, decrying the lack of sexual equality in cycling; particularly in her home country.

"Italian women give more to cycling than they receive,” she said. “It’s a movement that’s growing in numbers and in value, with results that, at least in recent years, the men have failed to match."

Bronzini’s second World title was the fourth for the Italian women in the past five years, with the Squadra Azzura only missing out on the medals in its home event in Varese in 2008. In addition to Bronzini’s two rainbow jersey’s, Italy won in 2007 through Marta Bastianelli – with Bronzini herself taking the bronze medal – and in 2009 through Tatiana Guderzo.

Despite Mario Cipollini’s victory in 2002, Paolo Bettini’s in 2006 and 2007, and Alessandro Ballan’s in 2008, the elite Italian men have been absent from the podium ever since.

Success for the Italian women has not been rewarded though, feels Bronzini, unlike in other countries where the women’s sport is much more supported.

"There’s a lack of structure, in the management of teams; they especially lack money,” she said. “Other countries have understood that women improve cycling in the spectacle, the image and the culture. And some of the major teams have started a women's sector; the cost is very limited, because the organisation already exists, from mechanics to soigneurs; from bikes to team cars."

An increasing number of the top men’s teams are beginning to have a women’s section, despite the sad loss of HTC-Highroad at the end of this year. Garmin-Cervélo – carried on from the Cervélo TestTeam – maintains it’s women’s line up; Rabobank has recently announced that it is to build a team around Marianne Vos; Project 1t4i is to carry on with what is currently Skil-Koga; while the new GreenEDGE team is to also include a women’s line up.

Nothing of the sort exists in Italian cycling, although Diadora-Pasta Zara – the team that Bronzini is to rejoin next year – is linked to men’s team Geox-TMC through the main sponsors; MCipollini-Giambenini also has close ties to the Farnese Vini-Neri team. Luckily though – on this occasion – Diadora-Pasta Zara and Geox-TMC are not too closely linked, as the women’s team is set to continue as before, while the men’s is threatened with closure with Geox pulling the plug.

This is not good enough for the World champion though, who would not necessarily recommend the sport to young aspiring women.

giorgia bronzini"In Italy you only make a great effort,” she said. “So much so that when I’m asked for advice on women's cycling, I'll tell them that it is better to stop or not start at all, and engage in another [sport]."

"But then I add that if there is desire and passion, then cycling offers excitement and adventure, discipline and character. Being a cyclist is not easy: a young girl who starts, misses work for 14-15 years.”

There are options for women entering the sport, she acknowledges, but none that will offer the opportunity of great wealth.

“There are only two possibilities,” Bronzini explained. “The first is to go into the military, which at least provides the time and a salary; the second is to prepare to go hungry."

Bronzini herself is a member of the Italian State Forestry Corps, as is Italian teammate Alessandra D’Ettorre, while Bastianelli, Guderzo and Monia Baccaille are all members of the Italian Prison Service, along with a number of others [the Valdarno team of 2010 and the MCipollini-Giambenini team of this year were formed so that the members of the ‘Fiamme Azzurre’ could ride together – ed]. As happens in many other European countries, the military allows them to ride as virtual professional athletes.

"There is no comparison. Tennis has come close to equal-awards at the top. In basketball and volleyball, as well as skiing and swimming, there is more attention and space. We are still relegated to the role of extras."

For those who are determined to pursue the sport to the very top level though, Bronzini does have some encouraging words.

"To race and to continue to race, to win and to try to win, you must be hungry; feel the fire inside," she said. "If you don’t win though, you need the knowledge that you have given everything and did the maximum; that is equivalent to a victory, even without a medal, or a cup, or the prize-money."

Victories in cycling can either be individual, or as the result of a team effort; as a sprinter, Bronzini’s two rainbow jerseys – as well as virtually all her others – have come in bunch sprints and she is quick to credit those around her.

"Mine are always team victories,” she said. “In Copenhagen I won, but so did all of the national team. Without my teammates I would not have got so high. From the moment I crossed the finish line first, I have always said that my companions should feel proud for this rainbow jersey, because it belongs to them. I won thanks to them, and I want them to feel it."

Like most of the women’s peloton in 2012, Bronzini’s season will be focussed on the Olympic Games in the summer. Her main targets of the year also include the defence of her rainbow jersey though, as well as trying to take back the one she took on the track back in 2009.

"The Worlds points race at the end of March, the London Olympics in late July, the road Worlds in Valkenburg, Holland, at the end of September,” she explained. “And on top of the Olympics and World Championships, the Giro d’Italia."

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