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women in sp or t

BREAKING THE CYCLE Cycling is an incredible sport, offering so many disciplines and opportunities, but it’s still male dominated, with sexism entrenched in the most high profile competition – the Tour de France. Car manufacturer Škoda is taking a stand with a women’s cycling academy. Kath Hudson reports

© shut terstock/Neil Hubert


t is the oldest and most prestigious

up with cycling royalty, Dame Sarah Storey,

professional cycling race in the world,

to create a cycling academy to coach a

but the Tour de France shuns female

team of five women to ride with the J-1

pro-cyclists. For the last four years,

team at this year’s Tour de France.

in an attempt to give female cyclists

“There is a disparity in the world of

a presence, break down gender

cycling between the men and women,

stereotypes and encourage equality

and now it’s time to act,” says Škoda’s

in sport, a 13-strong women’s cycling team –

communication manager, Lisa Kirkbright,

Donnons Des Elles au Vélo J-1 – has completed

who has spearheaded The Škoda Driver’s

all 21 stages one day ahead of the men.

Seat Initiative (DSI) Women’s Academy.

Last year, Škoda got on board to amplify

“The aim is to create a pathway to elite road

the message, but this year it went one

cycling for women, giving a leg up to those

step further. The car manufacturer teamed

who are committed.”

Thirty-seven women were shortlisted for selection into the programme and attended a day of testing

“Currently, the pathway to elite level is more difficult for women: there’s one female race to three men’s races, so there’s less opportunity for them to get their rankings up. As a result, the number of women racing at elite level is only 10 per cent,” she says. “Added to this, there’s a disparity in prize money and media coverage. Škoda wants to help girls get to the top by giving them the full armoury needed to tackle the male dominated world of cycling.”

Dame Sarah Storey mentored a team of five women for the Škoda programme


Issue 3 2019

Škoda takes action Female riders between the ages of 17 and 25 were invited to apply to the Škoda DSI Cycling Academy and 37 shortlisted