Ellen Noble taking the U23 leaders jersey at Gloucester. Photo via cycle-smart.com
For most people, riding bikes in second grade meant cruising around on park sidewalks with friends. For Ellen Noble, it meant lining up against adults in her first mountain bike race. It helps explain how, at just 19, she’s a professional cyclist with two cyclocross and two mountain bike national titles and nearly a dozen UCI podiums and wins to her name.
Though she’d been making a splash for a few years as a prominent elite junior, it was just last season that Noble had a major breakthrough and established herself as one of the strongest racers in the pro women’s field. She credits much of that success to joining the JAM Fund cycling team, the nonprofit development squad founded by Jeremy Powers, Alec Donahue, and Mukunda Feldman. I spoke to Noble about her early days racing with her parents, her development into a professional, JAM Fund’s successful development program, the difficulties of being a teenage pro athlete, and much more.
Posted in Cyclocross, Interviews, Mountain Biking, Racing
Tagged al donahue, american cyclocross, ellen noble, jam fund, jeremy powers, mukunda feldman, NECX, new england cyclocross, professional cyclocross racers, women and cycling, women's cyclocross
Kathryn Bertine. Photo via kathrynbertine.com.
This year was big for women’s professional cycling. The Women’s Tour of Britain–the country’s first stage race for women–saw upwards of 10,000 spectators lining the streets for some stages. A.S.O., the company behind the Tour de France put on La Course, a one day women’s circuit race in Paris that coincided with the final stage of the Tour. Races such as BC Superweek and the US National Road Championships started offering equal prize money for the first time. But though these steps towards equality are important and signify a little bit of progress in professional cycling, they are the exception not the rule. Prize money is still often wildly unequal. According to journalist Lee Rodgers, 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad women’s winner Tiffany Cromwell won just 270 euro while her male counterpart Luca Paolini won over 65,000 euro. The 2013 Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali netted 90,000 euro. Giro Rosa champ Mara Abbot earned 450 euro. A one day circuit race ending on the Champs Elysees is better than nothing, but it’s certainly not equivalent to three weeks of the world’s highest profile racing. Luckily the cycling world is starting to open its eyes to inequality.
Perhaps as important as 2014’s big races and sometimes-equal prize money, the conversation around inequality in professional cycling was elevated further into the mainstream than ever before. And Kathryn Bertine helped make it happen. The former journalist and current professional road cyclist combined her passions for storytelling and sport with her documentary Half The Road. The film documents the vast disparities between men’s and women’s pro cycling through interviews with the top women in the sport and the top decision makers in cycling’s governing body. It played to sold out theaters around the country this year and helped spark broad conversation about the subject. I spoke with Bertine about making Half The Road, the struggles for equality in cycling, the path to gender parity, her careers as a journalist and professional racer, and much more.
Posted in Cycling Media, Interviews, Racing
Tagged cycling documentary, gender gap in cycling, gender parity, giro rosa, half the road, kathryn bertine, la course, women and cycling, women's tour of britain, womens professional cycling
Shannon Galpin mountain biking in Afghanistan. Photo by Deni Bechard.
Most cyclists would agree that the bicycle is far more than the sum of its parts. As a means of transportation it has implications for climate change, socioeconomics, equity. As a sport it is medicine for our mental and physical well being. As a culture it connects us to people far and wide. And though it touches so many facets of our lives and is an important tool for change, most of us in developed countries would stop short of saying that bicycling is revolutionary. In a country such as Afghanistan however, bicycling has the potential for revolutionary transformation. It is, as Shannon Galpin discovered, a metaphorical and literal vehicle for improving the lives of women and girls living in a country consistently ranked among the worst on women’s rights.
Galpin first traveled to Afghanistan in 2008 as as founder and President of Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit focused on women’s rights in conflict zones. Her work initially involved a wide array of arts and education projects. Then in 2009 she brought her mountain bike to the country, went for some rides, sparked the sort of conversations with locals she needed to have about why women weren’t allowed to bike, and found the new focal point for her mission. The intersection of bicycling and Afghani women’s rights was further solidified in 2012 when she met the newly-created women’s National Cycling Team. Now Galpin is working to support the team and use cycling as sport to shift the cultural taboos about women biking for transportation and fun. Along the way, she has written a memoir, helped produce a documentary, given TED talks, and continued advancing Mountain2Mountain’s mission. I spoke to Galpin about her work in Afghanistan, breaking norms as a woman on a bike, projects with Mountain2Mountain, the National Cycling Team, and much more.
Posted in Advocacy, Cycling Media, Interviews, Mountain Biking
Tagged afghan cycles, afghanistan, bicycles and women's suffrage, mountain2mountain, shannon galpin, strength in numbers, women and cycling, womens cycling team in afghanistan
Jessica Cutler at Nationals in Boulder. Photo by Lori Brazel.
Like many women in the American pro peloton, Jessica Cutler came to cycling fairly late. She didn’t really start racing competitively until her late 20s and signed her first pro contract at 32. She’s been making up for lost time over the last three years, though. The time-trial specialist has notched dozens of time trial wins and lots of top-5s and -10s in stage racing, cyclocross, and track. And–again like many of her pro-racer colleagues–she’s accomplished all this while holding down a job at home; in her case as a family lawyer. I sat down with Cutler in the weeks between the end of road season and the start of cross to talk about her race career, riding through injuries, balancing law work and cycling, the need for pro women to find outside financial support, the tough path to gender parity in cycling, and plenty more.
Kat Sweet at the I5 Colonnade mountain bike park in Seattle. Photo by Meg Valliant.
Though mountain biking has been a male-dominated sport from the get go, there have always been a small contingent of women along for the ride. Jacquie Phelan, Juli Furtado, Rebecca Rusch, Marla Streb and many others all played pioneering roles in mountain biking’s development. Like them, Kat Sweet‘s mountain bike career has helped break down barriers for women and clear a path for today’s riders, especially in downhill where she was one of just a handful of women racing in those early days.
Sweet’s bike life has spanned nearly three decades of professional racing, freeride competitions, contest promotion, and coaching. These days her focus is on the latter two with her Sugar Showdown contest series for women freeriders and her Sweetlines Coaching business. Specializing in freeride coaching for women and kids, Sweet is working to foster the next generation of mountain biker rippers and grow the “sisterhood of shred.” I spoke with her about her long history in mountain biking, her unexpected foray into coaching, breaking down barriers to entry as a mentor for women riders, and much more.