How is women’s cycling in Germany doing?

Woman in a yellow t-shirt
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How is the Tour de France Femme going to help women cycling?

Only men compete in the most famous cycling race in the world. That should change with the Tour de France Femme. But what about women’s cycling in Germany? What is the impact of the French stage race?

For cycling fans, this is a new date in the event calendar. For many women, it is something more: for the first time since 2009, a stage race for cyclists is being held in France for the first time since 2009. The “Tour de France Femmes” from 24 to 31 July is to be the equivalent of the most famous men’s cycling race. If this is successful, it will not be the first attempt. Why is it so difficult to organize a women’s bike race of this size? What about women in German cycling?

Women in Germany have difficulty practicing popular and competitive sports, explains Kim Ohl, spokeswoman for the North Rhine-Westphalia Cycling Association (RSV NRW). “Of the more than 25,000 members of the RSV NRW, just over 5,000 are women. Men also dominate in coaching and official positions, ”says Ohl. This is also confirmed by RSV NRW’s competition coordinator Markus Schellenberger: “Traditionally, racing is still more of a ‘male domain’, which probably makes it difficult for women to start. Unfortunately, racing has had problems with young talent in the women’s field for years. “

Are you not interested in cycling? For Sina Päske, founder of the Berlin women’s cycling team “Wheel Divas”, this is not a problem. He believes that there are many more women in the streets today than five or ten years ago. Päske says: “The problem is that women are still not promoted. It remains a hobby for a few women who have a passion but might be able to do more, namely competitive sports! ” Ralf Stambula, team principal of the Münsterland women’s cycling team d.velop Ladies, also had this impression: “More young women ride racing bikes, alone or in groups. However, this increase cannot be seen in licensed cycling. “

According to Päske, one of the biggest problems is that the sport is still dominated by men. “Women shouldn’t do what men do. As a result, promotion is also much worse than for men, ”says the Wheel Divas team leader. Päske also criticizes the Association of German Cyclists (BDR), which she believes is based on the success of the women’s track four at the Tokyo Olympics, but generally doesn’t want to change anything.

BDR strongly disagrees with this. The successes of the past year speak for it. “Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, but BDR and international cycling are on the right track. Last year we achieved great success, especially in the junior category. This reflects the good work of the association, explains BDR spokeswoman Christina Kapp.

Schellenberger also sees reason to hope: “There is now a good racing program, for example the Bundesliga series and the Tour of Thuringia in Germany. Nevertheless, women’s cycling in competitive sports is, unfortunately, more of a marginal sport these days. ‘ BDR organizes its own road racing series with the Rad-Bundesliga, which is divided into three classes: men, U19 juniors and together in one class: women and U19 juniors. “BDR is trying very hard to equip this series with high-quality racing,” says Kapp. Ralf Stambula, however, criticizes that women in Germany are not being properly questioned. “In Belgium, for example, there are races where women can run between 80 and 100 kilometers. In Germany it is usually 35 kilometers. Once around the church tower. It just doesn’t lead to women’s further cycling. ‘

To make up for old negligence and to ensure that more women have access to cycling, RSV NRW is taking various measures, Ohl spokeswoman said. For example, the currently advertised Innovation Award aims to reward clubs for activities that promote girls and women. The association also found that women and girls have a positive impact when there are more trainers or trainers. “It has been shown that this can reduce inhibition of girls and women,” says spokeswoman Ohl.

Strangula believes that much more is possible: “There are such great events for men, why not let women go there as well? Infrastructure, marshals, everything is already there, you can just let the women run two minutes after the men ”. Why is it not implemented? BDR replies that the organizer of the women’s race cannot be ordered.

Strambula also criticizes the low opinion of the public and the media for not sufficiently presenting the bicycle, especially women. Professional sport is also a matter of costs and dependence on sponsors who, in turn, cannot find themselves without the media attention. Sport is mainly supported by volunteers. “Without a lot of volunteer teams, women’s cycling would probably have died out in Germany by now,” Päske is sure of that. Strambula adds: “I’m glad there are so many cycling enthusiasts who volunteer.”

With the protest of “Donnons des elles au vélo” (in English: “Women, get on the bike”), women prove that they are fit to practice this sport since 2015. In an unofficial cycle race, women take the Tour de France stage after stage and always one day ahead of the men. The establishment of an official top-class cycling race has already failed several times. The first “Tour de France Woman” took place in 1984-1989 and covered 1080 kilometers in 18 stages. In 1990, the “Tour of the EEC Woman” replaced the previous multi-day race. But even this competition cannot last long and is held for the last time in 1993. From 1997 to 2009 there is a new cycling race called “Grande Boucle Féminie Internationale”. But this attempt also ended about 13 years ago. Although a new one-day race “La Course” will be established in 2014, a race comparable to the men’s Tour de France will not exist until this summer.

Sina Päske of Wheel Divas sees the Tour de France Femmes as a good sign for professional women’s sports. “I think it motivates women not to see it just as a hobby. I think the Tour de France Femmes could be a great goal for some young girls. ” Ralf Stambula believes the Tour de France Femmes is a step in the right direction. Overall, steps in women’s international cycling are still too small.

Schellenberger from RSV NRW also welcomes this tour: “Basically everyone is now happy with every event that puts cycling more in the public eye. The women’s sector in particular hopes for more visibility and recognition as a result. “

The start date of July 24, the day of the men’s final, is widely praised. Many hope that media attention will be greater. The demanding final at the top of Planches des Belle Filles is also praised.

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