|Pauline Ferrand-Prévot is the current road racing and cyclocross world champion.|
Women account for more than 50 percent of the general population but continue to be under-represented in Wisconsin bicycle racing. In Sunday’s WORS race at CamRock, there were just 39 finishers in the women’s Cat 3 field. That compares to 187 men. At the May 23 WEMS race in Suamico, men outnumbered women 34 to 6 in the 30-mile solo category. The disparity is evident in other WORS and WEMS results, and in WCA road events, and in cyclocross as analyzed last fall by Tom Held in Silent Sports magazine.
It’s not just a Wisconsin phenomenon; feel free to conduct your own survey of race results from anywhere in the United States. And it’s not just racing; women are statistically less likely to ride a bike for recreation or for transportation. There are many possible explanations for the gender gap but one of the most commonly recurring themes is that women—especially in the early stages of their development as cyclists—are turned off by the hyper-competitive atmosphere created by many of their male counterparts.
Women in our area have options. Mountain Outfitters will offer a women’s road ride at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays starting next week. The 15- to 25-mile ride will leave from the south end of the parking lot at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in downtown West Bend. Belgianwerkx has a women’s ride at 6 p.m. on Mondays, leaving from the shop in Mequon. On June 13, the Wheel & Sprocket store in Fox Point will host a skills clinic for women who are interested in fast group rides and/or racing. And on July 26, the new Wisconsin Women Cycling organization will offer rides of 16, 32, 62 and 105 miles from Fireman’s Park in Newburg.
These initiatives are great to see, and their success will encourage more events of the same kind.