Crowds lining the finishing straight, kids waving homemade flags bearing their favourite riders’ names, the best of the British countryside, and the world’s greatest female cyclists.
The Aviva Women’s Tour has built a reputation as one of the best stops on the women’s pro cycling calendar, and it’s events like this that can alter perceptions of women’s cycling, and inspire future generations.
Such events also have the potential to inspire children, of all genders, to get into cycling. Schoolchildren lined the route of each stage, with many having spent time learning about the riders and the race route (after all, it’s not often you have the chance to spot world and national champions fly past your school). One teacher we spoke to described it as a day the children are likely to remember for a very long time.
The Women’s Tour can help challenge stereotypes around women’s cycling
Finally, the Women’s Tour can also help challenge stereotypes around women’s cycling, and women and sport generally. There’s no denying the athleticism, skill, fitness, the grit and determination of these women as they zip past, literally, the front doorstep of thousands of people’s homes.
Local groups of children and local cycling teams also started off each stage, encouraging more people to get on their bikes and ride. If the end result is more people of all ages taking up cycling then the legacy is more than a thrilling spectacle; it’s part of real change.
We asked a selection of people from organisers and riders to spectators why they love the Aviva Women’s Tour, and why it’s important for women’s cycling as a whole. Read on to find out their thoughts…
The 2016 edition of the women’s tour is part of the inaugural uci women’s world tour:
Beverly Dandy, Head Teacher of Outwoods Primary School, Atherstone
“[The school children] are all here, lining the route. They’ve made the bunting, and they’re just going to start the race. We’ve looking at an interactive map of the route, and they’ve designed bunting and flags, and researched where the riders have come from. It’s massive for Atherstone and this is going to be a lifetime memorable experience for the children.”
Alice Barnes, cyclist on the Drops cycling team
“[The Women’s Tour is] a massive opportunity for us, with us being such a new small team just coming into the ranks. For us to have an invitation to a UCI Women’s WorldTour event is just amazing. It’s really good to be riding around the best racers in the world.”
School children lined the route, with many holding home-made signs and flags, ready to cheer on their favourite riders:
Zoe Armstrong, soigneur for Drops
“It’s really great to have something this big in this country. For Drops, it’s a really big step and it’s putting our name out there with some of the biggest teams in the world, within women’s cycling. The girls are very humble and proud to ride in a race like this.”
Iona Brewers, via Twitter
“Great to see inspirational women on TV; next is encourage more women into sport and equal coverage as men!”
Michelle Rudd, race photographer
“It’s a carnival, it’s a sporting event, it’s a community event, and it brings people together. I’m sure neighbours who normally never talk are now out on the road waving their flags and putting bunting outside their houses and celebrating the race coming through their area which is great.
“And on top of that it’s great to see all the racing.These are the best female cyclists on the planet, all competing, which as an athletic spectacle is one of the best things out there, plus it’s coming past people’s front doors and it’s free!”
The tour wound its way through the towns and villages in warwickshire, northamptonshire and derbyshire, amongst other counties:
Beth Durayea, directeur sportif for the Canyon//SRAM team
“For our team, the Women’s Tour is one of the most important races on the calendar. There’s so much media and publicity around it, it’s great for us to get exposure. Aside from Ride London, it’s the only time we come to the UK, and whenever we come to a new country it’s important for us to try and perform well.
“I also like it because its so well organised – everyone is amazed at how professional it is. As a result, I think every team loves coming here.”
Hannah Walker, social media manager for race organiser Sweet Spot
“The Aviva Women’s Tour is a great platform to showcase women’s cycling, and I think it proves how good the racing is. There are thousands of people road-side watching and enjoying it – there’s a definite market to have more women’s racing at this level.
“It means a lot to me [personally] because then when I race, more people will come out and watch our racing, and will mean more people put on women’s cycle races to a higher level, with more prize money and coverage.”
Showcasing the best female cyclists in the world:
Peter Alford, via Twitter
“Showcasing amazing underexposed cycling talent”
Alice Rose Elliot, via Twitter
“Aspiration. Equality of opportunity to dream. Not to be confined. To be free.”
Catherine and her dad Keith, spectators at Stratford-upon-Avon
“We’re both keen cyclists. The last time we saw Lizzie was in the Tour of Flanders, so it’s great that the Tour comes to our home town of Stratford Upon Avon, and we’re hoping to get a photograph with her.
“We watch them on the TV and stuff, but to see them here on the same streets that we ride on is great! It’s really good inspiration.”