The UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) marked International Women’s Day on March 8th by hosting a large peloton made up of some eighty women for a guided bike ride starting and finishing at the centre in Aigle, Switzerland.
The 45km ride covered some of the course that athletes will tackle during the Aigle-Martigny 2020 UCI World Championships in September. Retired professional rider Steve Morabito, who is ambassador and strategic manager of Aigle-Martigny’s sustainable development, designed Sunday’s course and was one of several men to accompany the women along the route.
Organised thanks to the collaboration between Swiss Cycling, its #fastandfemaleSUI project, the Aigle-Martigny 2020 Organising Committee and the Union Cycliste Internationale, the bike ride attracted many more cyclists than originally imagined.
“We were pleasantly surprised, almost shocked,” exclaimed former professional cyclist Emma Pooley (GBR), who is responsible for #fastandfemaleSUI. Now established in Switzerland, the 2010 UCI World Champion in the individual time trial, is determined to see more women taking to their bikes and setting themselves sporting goals and challenges.
“There are women who are so strong but still don’t believe it,” laments Pooley. “We also need to get rid of stereotypes that women shouldn’t get sweaty and dirty. I don’t actually think women have a problem with that, but society still does.”
She said the International Women’s Day ride was a wonderful opportunity for women of all levels to ride together. Confirmed competitive cyclists – including 2019 European Games time trial winner and Swiss Champion Marlen Reusser – took part in the ride alongside the Talent Romandie team, leisure riders and mothers pulling their children in trailers. UCI representatives, UCI WCC trainee athletes, and local politicians also joined the group.
“This kind of group experience can help women get over their fear or reticence, and encourage them to take up cycling,” said Pooley.
The women’s bike ride concluded with an aperitif and official ceremony at the headquarters of the UCI, whose first female Director General also had a message for International Women’s Day.