If you asked someone to picture a cyclist, odds are they would imagine a middle-aged man in lycra with an expensive bike but there are women who ride and they are just as passionate about it as any MAMIL.
In 2012 Tina McCarthy decided to throw in her successful career as a designer and chase her dream of getting as many women on bikes as she possibly could by establishing Wheel Women, a social enterprise which focuses on teaching women usually aged between 33 – 55 how to ride confidently and safely on the road alone and in a group.
Tina McCarthy having fun on her mountain bike. Photo: Tina McCarthy
McCarthy said she has been in the privileged position of watching women gain confidence on a bike and achieve things they thought were impossible.
“There’s a lady who’s joined in September who hadn’t ridden a bike in years, years and years and she’s coming up for 60 this year and she’d been riding for six weeks before I said ‘why don’t you come do Ride Daylesford?’ which was a 65 kilometre ride.” McCarthy said.
Stuart Tripp enjoying a quiet moment at the South African round of 2015 Para-cycling World Cup. Photo: Stuart Tripp
There is a sinuous motion to Stuart Tripp’s pedalling style. It’s almost hypnotic. His torso sweeps back and forth smoothly as his arms move in perfect harmony to turn the pedals of his hand-cycle.
Tripp is an Australian Paralympic road cyclist in the H5 category and a silver medalist. His events are the road race and the time trial. He recently returned from the first round of the Para-cycling World Cup in Belgium where he won the road race and came third in the time trial. He is currently preparing for the Para-cycling World Championship in Italy and the August round of the Para-cycling World Cup in Canada.
Stuart Tripp winning the men’s road race at the first round of 2018 Para-cycling World Cup. Photo courtesy of Stuart Tripp.
Tripp’s journey to becoming an Australian Paralympian began in 1994 when he was in a horrific car accident in rural Victoria. The accident left Tripp comatose from significant head trauma, with kidney failure and serious crush injuries to both of his legs, including a compound fracture that tore through his right calf leading to an amputation below the knee and serious nerve damage to his left.
After a four and a half month stay at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Tripp moved to the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Hospital to learn how to live with a prosthetic leg.
“I’d never injured myself like that before and with no frame of reference to fall back on, I said you just get back on with life again, like you just jump back into life,” Tripp said.
Women’s professional cycling has struggled to attract the same level of media coverage the men’s. Then in 2015, Ella came into being – a female specific website that offered coverage of women’s professional racing as well as articles designed to catch the attention of the recreational cyclist. I spoke with Wade Wallace, founder of Cycling Tips and Ella about why he decided to start Ella, the difficulties the site has faced and the future.
It would be safe to say that most people have heard of Tour de France. Some would have heard of Cadel Evans. But if you went up to someone in the street and asked them to name a women’s cycling race or an Australian woman currently racing in the professional cycling scene, the majority wouldn’t be able to.
Female criterium races are often more aggressive and better to watch then the men’s. Photo: Lauren O’Keefe
Traditionally, women’s sport hasn’t gotten coverage in the media because it wasn’t perceived as being of interest to the public. This is slowly changing with the success of the AFLW and soccer’s Matildas. Even women’s cricket is getting a run on TV these days. But other sports like women’s cycling? They’re still in the shadows, only making it onto the evening news when someone wins a world championship, a gold medal at the Olympics or breaks a world record.
One of the major issues for women’s cycling is that it’s a niche inside a niche. However, what cycling does have is a loyal, enthusiastic and passionate following. It was this following that allowed Wade Wallace’s blog, Cycling Tips, to go from being a hobby that he started in 2008 to one of the best known cycling websites in Australia.