Tracey Gaudry: “The rise of women’s cycling must involve everybody”
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tracey Gaudry: “The rise of women’s cycling must involve everybody”

by Ben Atkins at 6:44 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
New UCI vice-president outlines her vision for the future of the female sport

tracey gaudryFollowing the election of Brian Cookson to the position of International Cycling Union (UCI) president in September, the UCI’s management committee appointed Australian Tracey Gaudry as one of two vice-presidents; the first woman ever to hold the post. The 44-year-old former racer from Victoria has seen a meteoric rise through the ranks of the organisation, having only been elected as head of the Oceania confederation in December of last year.

The demands of the role often involve the mother of three working through the night so as to be in the same time zone as her European colleagues but, as the first female to hold such a position in such a male dominated sport, means that the culture is beginning to change.

“I have always believed that people should occupy positions of responsibility according to their abilities even though it is clear that I have also pushed for more diversity, be it geographical or gender-based,” said Gaudry in an interview on the UCI website. “The Management Committee has demonstrated maturity in electing a woman in the Vice-presidency for the first time in the history of the UCI. We have a new generation which has sent out a very clear message.”

One of the first things to be created under Cookson’s premiership - although something similar was also pledged by the outgoing Pat McQuaid, should he have been re-elected - was the creation of a Women’s Commission to work alongside the others, such as Road, Track, etc, of which Gaudry is president.

“It will reflect our desire to diversify,” Gaudry explained. “We will have 6 or 7 members of both genders, Europeans and non-Europeans, from all disciplines, former and current athletes, National Federations, women coaches, organisers, teams and broadcasters.

“The Commission will be set up by the end of the year and we will present our strategy for the coming 12 months and beyond at the next Management Committee meeting in late January [before the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Hoogerheide, Netherlands, on February 1st and 2nd - ed]

“In order to develop women’s cycling it needs, among other things, better visibility,” she continued. “But I want to specify that we will have a transversal approach: we will work with all the commissions because the rise of women’s cycling must involve everybody. It is not something that concerns just one department.

“For the first time, there will be a woman in each commission, which is another clear sign from the UCI. We will take on board the proposals that the other commissions make to us and we will make propositions.”

Another measure taken - which took effect on October 1st instead of waiting for January 1st like most rule changes - was an adjustment to UCI rule 2.17.005, which stated that the “majority of the riders must be under the age of 28.” This is one of many rules that women’s teams share with Continental men’s teams, which are effectively at amateur level, and so designed to facilitate the development of riders and elevate them up to the professional levels of ProContinental and ProTeams.

Since there is currently just one level of women’s team, there is no upper level for riders to elevate to, and the rule was therefore penalising senior riders. Many women’s careers bloom in their later years - with several coming to the sport later in life - and so many ride on well into their 30s and 40s.

Gaudry herself finished third overall in the 1999 UCI World Road Cup at the age of 30, winning the now-defunct Coupe du Monde Cycliste Féminine de Montréal, and participated in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games time trial the following year.

“I was a cyclist and know from experience that you can still achieve great things over a wide age range,” she said. “Marianne Vos, who is a member of the Athletes’ Commission, proposed that this regulation made no sense. It is a simple proposal that received unanimous support.”

Part of the UCI’s initiative to encourage more women to take up cycling, and stay in the sport, has been to train more women coaches, with a programme 100% dedicated to women for the first time this summer. Transforming the male-dominated culture of the sport, it’s hoped, will help to facilitate this.

“For a young woman wanting to get into a cycling career, a male dominated environment can appear for some, let’s say, ‘dissuasive,’” said Gaudry. “There is a chance she will be overwhelmed and that she finally decides not to chase her dream. This stumbling block can be overcome if women are part of the entourage: coaches, doctors, mechanics etc. In Australia we have a lot of programmes that encourage women to take up these positions at an amateur or semi-professional level. Other countries have similar initiatives in place [including Sweden, about whom the UCI commissioned a video this year - ed].

“One of the UCI’s roles is to draw on all this experience and create a common resource. The WCC programme for women coaches encourages this sharing of knowledge. It also helps to provide women cyclists with career pathways beyond their career as an athlete. This type of initiative, which helps structure the environment of women’s cycling, will help us establish the vision that our sport needs in order to look to the future with confidence.”

Another change for 2014 will be three new classifications added to the Road World Cup, with jerseys awarded for sprinters, climbers and young riders. It is hoped by the UCI that it will add extra dimensions to the races, with more riders having more competitions to aim at.

“It is a decision that will motivate the riders as well as the organisers, sponsors, broadcasters and public,” Gaudry explained. “It will provide multiple competitions within a competition like in a stage race. The calendar will be more exciting for everyone.

“We will have eight World Cup rounds [there will actually be nine, with the addition of the Sparkassen Giro, in Germany, in 2014 - ed] that will provide opportunities throughout the season for many styles of rider,” she added. “I’m only sorry that I don’t race anymore! We have other projects we are already developing for 2014, which we hope to announce by the end of the year.”

Women’s cycling has suffered a shrinkage of its calendar, and the steady loss of many of its biggest teams in recent years. It’s hoped that, having a woman in the top echelon of the sport, this trend will be reversed in coming seasons and it can grow at something like the rate that the men’s sport has done recently.

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