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2 August 2022

Meet The Women Shaping the Future of Cycling


Still reeling from all the action of the Tour de France Femmes? So are we. Watching some of the toughest female cyclists in the game (including our very own Liv Racing Xstra), finally given the opportunity to ride the biggest stage race in the world like the men, was nothing short of inspirational.

The Tour de France Femmes may be over, but the real journey for women's cycling and women's sport as a whole is just beginning - and it’s all about momentum. So, we caught up with some of the people changing the game in the world of women’s cycling; women working tirelessly to create a more diverse, inclusive and equal playing field.

Meet 5 women shaping the future of cycling.

"Call out inequality when you see it. Your influence is bigger than you think"

SunGod Ambassador Louise Vardeman (@loukew) founded women’s cycling team and campaign group InternationElles in 2019, to raise awareness of the need for a women's Tour de France, and campaign for women’s cycling more broadly. An amateur cyclist who has become an iconic figure in the cycling world, Louise's tireless work has been critical for the progress we've seen in recent years.

What does the introduction of the Tour de France Femmes mean to you?

“It is a HUGE milestone that we are so proud to have campaigned for.  It's been tiring, gruelling, expensive and frustrating, but it’s been worth it. We’ve helped create positive change. It means the world to us that our campaign worked, and steps are being made to close the gender gap in cycling. There is still so much work to be done, but we’re over the moon that things are moving in the right direction. We’ve really helped to shape history.” 

Where would you like to see the cycling industry in 5 years' time, and what do we need to do to get there?

"I would love to see the cycling industry have no gender gap in 5 years time. To get there we need more women coming into the professional peloton. And to make that happen, we need more coverage, bigger sponsorship deals, better pay and better prize money, to make cycling a more feasible and rewarding career choice for young women."

How can people become allies to women’s cycling?

"Watch women's races (both pro and grassroots), talk about women's cycling with your peers to encourage them to get into the sport, and last but not least call out inequality when you see it. Your influence is bigger than you think and you have the power to make change."

"I'm excited for young girls today. They can watch the Tour de France and know they could get there one day; it’s not just something for their dads and brothers. Kids should get involved in all the sports and activities they can, to help them realise they can be anything they want to be; they shouldn’t be put in a box because of their gender."

"Things won't change until we have folks at the table who look different to what the cycling industry is used to."

After craving community in the bikepacking world and not being able to find it, advocate, organizer and SunGod Ambassador Devin Cowens (@dev_rox) founded Radical Adventure Riders Atlanta to create a space for trans, non-binary, women, and femme cyclists to ride together.

Tell us about RAR. How did it come about?

"I started RAR ATL 4 years ago when I was craving community in bikepacking and wasn't able to find what I was looking for. I scanned the landscape in Atlanta and realized there was a void of trans, non-binary, women, and femme folks bikepacking, so I started the group so I could have more folks to bike camp with! RAR ATL has taught me the importance of community - I love that this space now exists for those who are new to cycling, new to bikepacking, just wanting a group of friends to hang out with who aren't just cis men. It's grown so much over the past 4 years and I feel so grateful that folks know we exist."

What needs to be done to make cycling more inclusive and accessible?

"Make sure bike design and race and event planning aren’t just considering the needs of cis men - we need more equity and a wider range of voices in decision making roles. Things won't change until we have folks at the table who look different to what the cycling industry is used to. Having a Tour de France Femmes, for example, means we're one step closer to seeing the pro peloton change for the long haul."

How can readers can support the fight for equality in cycling?

1) "Never stop educating yourself - continue to learn and read about the histories that got us to where we are now."

2) "If you have a platform, use it to bring attention to important issues and make space for people other than yourself."

3) "Do your research and donate to local organisations who improve access into cycling; for young people, communities of colour, and other minorities."

"We need to remove the barriers that stop girls getting on bikes."

SunGod Ambassador Marie Louise Kertzman (@marielouise_adventures), alongside fellow ambassador Nora Turner, was one of 6 hand-picked female cyclists to ride the Plantur Femmes Tour. This took place in the run up to the Tour de France Femmes to raise awareness for and celebrate the milestone of this race.

What was the idea behind the Plantur Femmes Tour?

"The intention was to take on a version of the Women's Tour, but without the transfers. So we started out in Paris (where the pros intersected on July 24th) and headed out across France until we reached the iconic Planche des Belles Filles. After seeing the InternationElles take on so many Tour-related challenges, I was stoked to face a challenge like this myself. It was like taking on something not just for yourself, but together with all those who have worked so hard before you, too.

It was a celebration of progress, aimed at making even more noise about the exciting women’s racing that’s happening this summer. We were amazed by how much support we received along the way - the hype is real!"

What does the future of cycling look like for you, and how do we get there?

"I'd like to see equal consideration and representation of the individual needs of all genders at every level. To achieve this, we need to push from the grassroots up to improve participation in every area - from commuting, to amateur racing, to the pro peloton. We need to remove the barriers that stop girls getting on bikes, and constantly reflect on better, more intersectional ways to do that. For this to work, self-awareness, a long term view, and a willingness to learn - particularly from those who’ve been in the industry the longest - is fundamental."

What will you do to continue to promote gender equality in cycling - and what’s your advice for others looking to be better allies to women's cycling?

"No gatekeeping. Constantly checking my own privilege, and being aware of what made it easier for me to get into cycling than for others. That being said, also being proud and sharing the barriers that prevented me from joining the cycling community sooner. Finally, amplifying the voices of those working hard both at a pro level, and a grassroots level - to spread the word about women’s cycling, and to show people how exciting it really is!"

"I’d love to see the demographics of the cycling industry reflect those of the society that we live in."

When SunGod Ambassador Vera Ngosi-Sambrook (@pedalling.to.and.fro) started cycling in north Wales, she found herself using social media to seek out a more diverse cycling community. She’s since been awarded the Ultra Distance Scholarship and works to increase diversity and accessibility for people of colour in adventure cycling.

So, what’s adventure cycling all about? 
"It's about going on a journey and exploring places that are off the beaten track. What I love most about the adventure cycling world is that it is less focused on what you’re wearing, what shape your body is or how lightweight your bike is, and more about discovery, connecting with nature and other people. It’s taught me that you can find pockets of beauty closer to your doorstep than you realise, even if you live in a city. You only need to be brave enough to take that detour!

Having said that, there’s plenty of work to be done to make it a more inclusive and accessible space. There needs to be less emphasis on having the most expensive, lightweight gear, and we need to focus on the basics; just you, your bike, and the great outdoors."

Where would you like to see the cycling industry in 5 years' time?

"I’d love to see the demographics of the cycling industry reflect those of the society that we live in. One thing that could help us get there is normalising sharing diverse stories and images in cycling media; not just to tick a box for events such as Black History Month, Pride Month or International Women’s Day, but as a normal, regular occurrence throughout the year."  

What are your top 3 tips for supporting the fight for equality in cycling?

1) "Share opportunities widely. If you’re signing up for something, think of encouraging someone who may not have originally considered it to give it a go. If you’re active on social media, share the event in your wider circles."

2) "If you’re taking part in an event or race that doesn’t have equal recognition for men and women, don’t be passive. Speak up and campaign for yourself or others."

3) "Be willing to research, listen and understand the barriers that marginalised groups encounter. Just because an issue doesn’t directly impact you, ignoring it or not acknowledging its existence makes you an inadvertent contributor to the issue."

How do you feel about the introduction of the Tour de France Femmes? 

"I’m very excited that we finally have a Women’s Tour de France, but I can’t help but wonder why it has taken so long to get here. I think it’s a fantastic milestone, but really it’s only the beginning. I hope that the momentum from this carries through to all levels of cycling, and that women and men are given the same opportunities, prize money and recognition."

"5 words for my journey to the Tour de France Femmes? Preparation, belief, teamwork, dedication - and dream."

Having claimed the titles of Dutch Champion, European Champion and World Champion, pro cyclist Thalita de Jong (@thalitadejong) helped carry the Liv Racing Xstra team to success in the first Tour de France Femmes.

How would you summarise your journey to the Tour de France Femmes in 5 words?

"Preparation, belief, teamwork, dedication - and dream."

What are your three tips for supporting women's cycling?

1) "Watch the races live on TV or live streams; it makes all the difference. Every view counts!"

2) "Social media. Follow the riders and teams, share content with your friends, and help raise the profile of women's cycling and get more people following it."

3) "Don't stop after the men's Tour; show the rest of the world that you are interested in women's cycling too. Hang out your flags at home, cheer for us, and like with the men's race, make a party out of it! Come together and celebrate that women finally have their own Tour."

What's your advice to young girls today?
"Always try to keep it fun. The moment you have fun, you can overcome so many setbacks, and it can send you back in the right direction, towards great achievements. So yeah, stay motivated and have fun - that's my most important piece of advice for young girls!"

We have made incredible progress in women’s cycling in recent years, but we have so much more to do. Inspired by people like Louise, Devin, Marie Louise, Vera and Thalita - and of course, the whole Liv Racing Xstra team- at SunGod we're committed to playing our part in the journey towards a gender-equal sporting landscape. We urge you to do the same; whether that’s by encouraging a friend to ride out with you, volunteering at your local grassroots club, or simply watching women’s cycling on TV. Keep up the momentum - for girls on bikes everywhere.

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