What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than by collecting facts about some of the most recognisable figures from the history of women’s cycling? Well, we’ve done just that. In this post you”ll find out about the greatest female figures in the world of cycling.
A short history on female cyclists
The origin of the bicycle as a means of transport dates back to around the 18th century, a time when women’s rights were subject to men’s decisions. The bicycle brought about women’s liberation, because thanks to bicycles, European women achieved an unprecedented degree of autonomy and freedom. Bicycles allowed them to move from one place to another without the dependence on a man to carry or escort them.
During that time, women lived under the rule of men’s will, who were responsible for giving permission for them to do the vast majority of things they could do. Thus, bicycles meant a change in women’s lives and even had a great influence on their rights.
Numerous female cyclists cooperated to change the way of thinking and acting of the time, such as Amelia Bloomer. A woman who championed the interests of female cyclists as well as their right to vote in the United States. Amelia managed to make a huge impact that brought about a substantial improvement in women’s rights, as well as the freedom to decide how women dress. She was the designer of the popular women’s cycling trousers, known as bloomers – wide, comfortable and lightweight trousers.
In addition to Amelia, many female cyclists such as Susan B. Anthony, Alfonsina Strada and Marthe Hesse supported this movement to defend women’s rights and to challenge the chauvinistic ideas in vogue at the time.
Source: Estampa de 13 de junio de 1936
4 women who made history in women’s cycling
When it comes to cycling and historical figures in this sport, names such as Lance Armstrong, Miguel Indurain or Greg Lemond come to mind, among many others. Unfortunately, many cycling fans are unaware of the great achievements of female cyclists. However, there have been amazingly talented female cyclists who have made their mark on cycling history. Just to name a few:
1. Annie Londonderry
As mentioned above, the world of women’s cycling is overlooked by a large number of cycling fans and often even by the mainstream media. However, the great achievement of Annie Londonderry should not be overlooked and should be known by everyone.
A cyclist and journalist with a passion for adventure, she was the first woman to ride around the world on a bicycle in 1895, a feat that took her 15 months to accomplish. She left her husband and children at home and accepted the sponsorship of Londonderry Lithia, who paid her $1,000 to add the brand name to her own name and carry a banner on her bicycle. The reward for the feat was $5000 and the recognition of a society that saw her as an eccentric at the time. When she returned from her trip, and thanks to her experience as a journalist, she wrote about her experiences in the New York World newspaper under the pen name “The New Woman”.
2. Jeannie Longo
Born on 31 October 1958, the Frenchwoman Longo began her career as a professional athlete in skiing until she discovered track and road cycling, where she proved to be unique and unbeatable.
Jeannie set records throughout her professional career, including the gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic race, 13 world championships and a total of 59 French championships.
3. Marianne Martin
Born on 1 November 1957, Marianne Martin was the winner of the first women’s Tour of the modern era, in 1989. Her victory was truly spectacular, as Marianne had been battling anemia months before the race and managed to win the Grand Tour after more than 29 hours of cycling. She is considered one of the most important women cyclists in history thanks to her perseverance and courage.
4. Beryl Burton
A cyclist without limits, capable of constantly breaking records and managing to hold a title for several years. Britishwoman Beryl Burton was the best female cyclist in the UK for almost 25 years.
Beryl’s record is unequalled – she won 11 medals at the World Track Championships between 1969 and 1973, and also won 3 medals at the World Road Championships between 1960 and 1967. But that’s not all – Beryl continued to win and broke the world record of 446 kilometres in a 12-hour time trial, where she managed to perform better than some men and held the record for two years. We can also highlight her more than 90 national championships, 7 world championships and countless records.
The female cyclist surge
According to the latest bicycle barometer by the Bicycle Cities Network, the number of female cyclists in cities has increased by up to five points in the last two years, while the proportion of male cyclists has remained stable. With the increase in the number of female cyclists, cycling has become more common on the streets and, in addition to this, we can say that women’s cycling is becoming steadily leveled with men’s. The percentage of women cyclists currently stands at 42.7%. The percentage is currently 42.8% female cyclists and 58.9% male.
Influence and presence of female cyclists
Today, we are delighted to see the high level of female cyclists performing in different disciplines and having a great impact on the sport. In addition, their presence on social media is encouraging more and more women to try cycling as a sport or as a method of transport.
Here are some of today’s top female professional cyclists:
1. Pauline Ferrand Prevot
Pauline Ferrand Prevot (1992, France) is one of the most awarded cyclists on the current cycling scene. In her trophy cabinet we can find a total of 5 world titles. The 28-year-old French cyclist has been world champion in different cycling disciplines such as cyclo-cross (once), road cycling (once) and cross country (6 times), as well as having reached the podium numerous times. She currently competes with the Absolute Absalon BMC team, Julien Absalon’s UCI team.
2. Annemiek van Vleuten
The Dutch cyclist born in 1982, specialised in road and track cycling, has achieved great professional success during her career: winner of the overall classification of La Route de France Féminine in 2010, the Giro d’Italia Femminile in 2018 and 2019, and the prestigious Tour of Flanders in 2011. In addition to winning these major sporting events, Annemiek has won a total of 6 medals at the Road Cycling World Championships between 2013 and 2020, and 1 deserved gold medal at the 2020 European Road Cycling Championship. She has recently signed up with Movistar Team.
3. Laura Kenny
Laura Kenny, born in 1992, is one of the most recognised British cyclists today. Laura stands out as an elite athlete, who despite her asthma problems, worked and persevered until she won 2 gold medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games and a double gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games. In addition, Laura has always been a strong supporter of the #LikeAGirl campaign, an approach designed to encourage today’s girls to train and play sport at school.
4. Emily Batty
The 31-year-old Canadian has become a human benchmark in mountain biking. Emily won the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games and 2 bronze medals at the World Mountain Bike Championships in 2016 and 2018. Currently, she rides with the Trek team and we can see her battling in the front groups of most Cross Country competitions.