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Riding in a Man's World: Gendered Struggles in Professional Women's Road Cycling

The Professionalisation of Women’s Sport

ISBN: 978-1-80043-197-3, eISBN: 978-1-80043-196-6

Publication date: 20 September 2021


Women's sport is said to be experiencing a moment of progress exemplified by the ‘professionalising’ of teams, leagues and events (McLachlan, 2019; Pavlidis, 2020; Taylor et al., 2020). The current ‘professionalising’ moment is celebrated as a measure of incremental change that demonstrates that women's sport is progressing in the right direction (Sherry & Taylor, 2019; Taylor, 2020). In this chapter, we pursue critical questions of progress in relation to professionalisation in women's road cycling. Cycling as a sport commenced in the late 1800s, and women were able to earn money from riding and racing their bicycle. However, the evolution of women's cycling has not been a linear process, (McLachlan, 2016) and despite increased ‘professionalisation’ of women's road cycling, women cyclists lack proper wages, safe working conditions, significant prize money, and suitable economic and career opportunities. Our work draws from data of 15 semi-structured interviews with riders and from extensive fieldwork of elite women's road cycling races in seven different countries in 2019. Our findings illustrate that despite the general perceptions of progress of women's professional road cycling, the cyclists' experiences and rationalisations of their conditions reflect deeper struggles. We argue that struggles over rewards, resources, and recognition are all evidence of the ‘unimpeded sexism’ in sport (Fink, 2016, p. 3), and as such, the professionalising of women's sport does not guarantee transformation of the gender order.



Ryder, S., McLachlan, F. and McDonald, B. (2021), "Riding in a Man's World: Gendered Struggles in Professional Women's Road Cycling", Bowes, A. and Culvin, A. (Ed.) The Professionalisation of Women’s Sport (Emerald Studies in Sport and Gender), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 175-191.



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