SunGod Pro Team members, the Internationelles, are continuing their campaign for gender equality in cycling…
How much do you really know about the world’s most famous cycle race? We all know that it is the toughest cycling stage race in the world. We all know that 200 of the world’s best cyclists spend 23 days riding over 3,500 km to win the most prestigious title in cycling. And we all know there is 500,000 Euro prize for the winner. But did you know they are all men? Meet the Internationelles, a team of 10 incredible women who are challenging this very question. We caught up with Louise Gibson, the Internationelles team captain to find out how…
1. It’s an honour to be speaking to you 12 months on, and what a year it has been! How has women’s cycling progressed since you finished last year’s race, and have you noticed an impact?
This year has been crazy! There have been a few exciting developments like the addition of a women's Paris Roubaix and more awareness about the inequalities within our sport, but there is still lots of work to be done to ensure women have the same opportunities as men.
2. How has the Internationelles team evolved this year?
Out of the 10 team members, half are returning, and half are new. We've all been keeping an eye on each other through Strava and keeping in touch online, unfortunately due to the circumstances this year, we didn't get to all meet as a team this year.
3. What have you learned from last year’s race and how did you channel these learnings into preparation for this year?
The main goal for this year was staying positive and staying focused on our goal of improving things within women's cycling by once again riding the Tour in full, one day ahead of the men. We worked together as a team and communication was key. You can never do enough training for the Tour so we all worked really hard to ensure we'd be ready.
4. How did the onset of COVID 19 earlier this year affect the team’s preparation for the Tour?
Unfortunately, the onset of COVID-19 threw everyone into a spiral of uncertainty and we weren't sure what was going to happen. Despite this, we had to keep training because we were hoping we would still be heading to the Tour and needed to be ready for it. When the Tour was pushed back, we thought we would be OK and kept training and hoping. It was only as we came closer and the situation didn't seem to be improving, team members weren't able to travel and ultimately we were really forced to completely change our plans.
5. How did the Internationelles respond to the change in the format of this year's Tour?
Having dedicated so much to this cause so far, there was no way that we were giving up. We began to discuss the ways in which we could continue to keep equality in front and centre, and to use the fitness we'd worked so hard on and that's how we developed our Plan B…
6. And what was plan B?
We decided Plan B would involve all 10 riders working together to cover the distance and the elevation of the Tour between us. The distance was covered online, virtually, on RGT Cycling. We started a round the clock team relay to ride the full 3484km at the same time the Tour started and we managed to finish in less than 100 hours when the men were just starting Stage 5. After one rest day, we took on the elevation of the Tour by each of us Everesting, 3 of us did it online and 7 of us did in on a hill outside. Everesting is an interesting concept, you have to reach the full elevation of Mount Everest in one ride with no sleeping, 8848 metres.
7. You could have postponed until 2021, why was Plan B so important to you?
We were not interested in doing nothing this year. We have trained too hard and believe too much in our cause to sit at home in silence. 2020 gave a unique opportunity for the rule books to be rewritten and for a fresh start to happen. We needed to continue our conversations about equality and continue our work on closing the gender gap. Why shouldn't women have the same opportunities as men?!
8. What was the most challenging part of Plan B and how did you overcome it?
The most challenging part of Everesting for me was pacing. The UK based riders Everested on a hill in South Wales called the Bwlch, we needed to do 27 reps of it to hit the 8848 metres of elevation. I desperately wanted to complete it and to try and enjoy it, by backing off by a mere 20 watts or so off my normal pace enabled me to do that. It was absolutely incredible, and I'm delighted all 5 of us completed the full Everesting within about half an hour of each other 18 hours after starting at 4am!
9. Based on any progress made this year, what are your predictions for 2021 for the Internationelles as a team and women’s cycling as a whole?
We're hoping next year brings more progress in women's cycling and an actual announcement from the ASO, the Tour oganisers about the rumoured women's Tour de France that might happen in 2022. We're keen to ride the full Tour again to keep our message of equality going and show what women are capable of. We will not give up until real progress is made, and cyclists aren't limited by their gender.
10. Do you have any advice for what individuals can do to help the movement of gender equality in cycling?
Start cycling, enjoy it and get involved. It doesn't matter if you're male or female or whether you're slow or fast, just ride. Please also watch women's cycling, talk about the races and encourage others to do the same. Let's make women on bikes a more normal thing and let's encourage progress in women's cycling from grass roots all the way into the pro peloton. Please also share our message and spread the word!
We are incredibly proud of the inspirational and tireless work of the Internationelles to raise awareness and combat the gender disparity in cycling. At SunGod, we’ve always been about challenging the status quo in everything we do, and we believe that gender should never define the potential of the adventures you can have. We’re excited to continue working alongside the Internationelles and we’re stoked to see what lies ahead for the future of women’s cycling…