Monday 20 November 2017

Anger as women cyclists in national road race told to pull over and let men go past

Lydia Boylan winning the women’s race at the National Road Race Championships in Wexford. Photo: Stephen McMahon/Sportsfile
Lydia Boylan winning the women’s race at the National Road Race Championships in Wexford. Photo: Stephen McMahon/Sportsfile

Rebecca Lumley

A row has erupted after the Irish national women's cycling road race was halted to allow the male elite racers to pass through.

According to race organisers, the women were racing "too slowly" and had to pull in with less than a lap left to avoid clashing with the male competitors.

Race director Derek Webb said the women were "given a 17km head-start" and organisers had expected they would have finished by the point when race commissaires decided to "pull them in".

"It's the rules of Cycling Ireland and it's always the way it's done, the slowest race is pulled over. You can't ask the faster race, who are there to race, to slow down. You don't do that," Mr Webb said.

Mr Webb said that while it was "unfortunate" for the female cyclists involved, such occurrences happen regularly.

"I have a responsibility to the riders but I'm not responsible for the riders, for their actions. And they [the women] were just racing too slow and the average speed was well below what was expected of them," he said.

Both races made up the 'Blue Ribbon' event on the last day of the championship in Co Wexford on Sunday morning. In previous years the races had taken place on separate days.

One official commissaire working at the National Championships echoed Mr Webb's sentiments, saying it was "the only call on the day they could make".

The winner of the elite women's race, Lydia Boylan, said the route may have contributed to the problem. "Unfortunately, I think it was always going to be a likely scenario, on the circuit that they chose for the race.

"Having such a big men's bunch and conversely such a small women's bunch, I think they probably over-estimated the speed of the women's group and thought that it wouldn't catch."

Ms Boylan added that while it is inconvenient to be stopped mid-race, she did not think it had an effect on the outcome.

"I think that I'd be a lot more angry had it been a bit more of an attacking race and there were groups all over the road and stopping it meant groups came back together."

Cyclist Eve McCrystal, who was runner-up in 2016, said that while she understood the organisers' decision, the place they were stopped was the "worst place on the route".

"The point in the race we were stopped was kind of paralysing. If we were allowed to keep cycling it could have changed the whole dynamic of the race."

The Women's Commission for Cycling in Ireland said it would be contacting Cycling Ireland to prevent the re-occurrence of such an incident.

Cycling Ireland, the national governing body for the sport, said it was treating the matter "very seriously".

Irish Independent

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