In professional cycling, as in marathons, the men’s race goes off first, there is a time gap, then the women are given the start flag.
In a cycling race in Belgium, the gap of 10 minutes was just about closed by the lead female racer. Race officials were concerned that she’d get entangled with the support vehicles traveling behind the men. What did they do? Wave aside the support vehicles and let her race on?
No. They stopped the women’s race until the gap had opened up again. The lead female rider was able to start off first among all the riders who’d caught up with her during the halt, but her rhythm had been thrown off and she quickly lost her lead, finishing overall 74th.
Can you imagine race officials stopping the male racers because they were catching up with the women?
I hardly know what to say, except that in microcosm, it reflects to me male discomfort with women closing gaps of any kind. In marathon running, the fastest women are now very close to equalling the fastest men. The male record is 2:03.38. The fastest female time is 2:15:25. Professional sporting didn’t used to allow women to run marathons at all. The stress of the long race was thought to be too much for our womanly bodies. We now know that with proper training, equipment, financial support and access to the most challenging races, women do just fine.
The Tour de France, the premier professional cycling race, is still male-only. I can’t wait for that barrier to fall.
I’m reminded of RBG’s famous comment that we aren’t looking for special privileges. We just want men to get their feet off our necks. Or to have male race officials to remove the actual impediment — the support vehicles — and not stand in the way of the racers.