With women’s cycling milestones and birthdays of some of our favourite riders aplenty, we’ve decided to make a round-up of just a few of the events that happened in Februarys past. We’d like to make this a regular instalment, so let us know what you think! After all, as women’s cycling develops more loyal fans worldwide, it is vital to understand how it all came to be.
Read on to discover what happened this month in women’s cycling history.
Born on February 15, 1820, Susan B. Anthony was an American social reformer and women’s rights activist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement and was a fierce proponent of the bicycle. As she wrote in this oft-quoted declaration in 1896:
“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.”
Surely many women cyclists would still endorse those feelings of self-reliance and independence, and for giving shape to that sentiment and so much more—Susan will always be a hero of women’s cycling.
Remember Annie Londonderry, the first woman to cycle around the world? Well, the events that would ultimately lead to her circumnavigating the globe kicked off in February of 1894. The inspiration for betting on a bicycle journey around the world likely came from a former Harvard student E. C. Pfeiffer. Under the pseudonym Paul Jones, he started bicycling in mid-February 1894, claiming to be attempting a trip around the world in one year on a $5,000 wager. Even though the bet was later revealed to be fake, it was what prompted two rich (and pompous) Boston men to allegedly wager $20,000 against $10,000 that no woman could travel around the world by bicycle in 15 months. Little did they know what they were getting themselves into. Read more about the Annie Londonderry story here.
Jumping ahead about a hundred years, Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå was born on February 10, 1973. This Norwegian cross-country and marathon mountain biker is a force to be reckoned with and has accumulated outstanding palmarés throughout her two-wheel endeavours. These include (but are not limited to): the women’s cross-country gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, ten World Championships and nine European championships in cross-country and marathon, not to mention her 30 career World Cup victories, four of which came in a row. Having retired two years ago, she now works as an ambassador, travelling worldwide to promote mountain biking and inspire other women to ride.
The 5th of February is another one worth marking as we celebrate Anna Turvey’s birthday. A time trial phenomenon, she held the Irish National records for the 10-, 25- and 50-mile individual TTs. In 2016, she took the Irish ITT cycling champion and took bronze at the European Track Championships in the individual pursuit. Oh, and did we mention that aside from still being active in cycling, the 40-year-old also works as an optometrist? Hats off to her!
Another one of our favourite riders, on February 11th, we raise a glass to Ellen van Dijk. The Dutch rider originally started as a speed skater but ended up turning her cross-training side hustle into the main gig. Not a bad choice, seeing she now has over 40 professional wins in road cycling alone, including the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Tour of Qatar, Boels Ladies Tour, Healthy Ageing Tour and Dwars door Vlaanderen, as well as European, Dutch and World Championship ITT titles.
Ok, this one happened a bit shy of February, but it was such an iconic event that we just couldn’t help ourselves. On 29 January 2006, Marianne Vos won her first cyclo-cross world title in Zeddam, the Netherlands. She was only 18 at the time, and it was this victory that would kickstart her stardom. She went on to take the road championship title later that year, and well, the rest is pretty much history as she has gone on to become one of the most successful riders of all time.
February 22nd, 2021 will mark the 10th anniversary of when Ethel Brambleby passed away at the age of 93. A decade-spanning career if ever there was one, this fierce British rider raced for the first time in 1933 and continued strong until her final appearance in 2000. She overcame prejudice against competitive women’s riding early in her career and worked hard to solidify this acceptance. She organised events, including national championships, held committee positions, and wrote for various cycling publications. She was an enthusiastic lifelong campaigner for women’s participation in the sport of cycling, and we’ve much to thank her for!
And we have to include some recent history, just to underscore what a wild ride the last few years have been. In 2019, the Women’s Zwift KISS Super League kicked off in February. In, what was described at the time as a “new e-sports racing format,” four riders from professional women’s teams participated in a series of eight live-streamed events each Tuesday, where they would race each other remotely via the Zwift platform. Who knew just how integral Zwift would become in the years following?
In the first cancellation of the many that would follow it, February 2020 was when the UCI announced that they would postpone all upcoming Chinese races because of COVID-19. Hard to believe that was only a year ago, all things considered. But there you have it.
And to end on a positive note! This week’s cycling news has been dominated by the announcement that Trek Segafredo has officially increased the base salary for their female riders to equal the men’s. The change came into effect this month, thereby moving quicker than currently required by regulations towards greater wage equality. It’s about time, and we’re happy to see teams taking proactive steps towards gender equality. Let’s hope for more good news in the months to come!