Comment: Stef Wyman discusses the recent events surrounding British Cycling, Shane Sutton, and sexism within cycling
700 words, that’s all I’ve got. House of Cards got four series and to be fair this might be cycling’s equivalent.
I see comments targeted at British Cycling, but they aren’t the bad guys. British Cycling is an organisation with some amazing staff and dedicated coaches. We need to break down the target of “British Cycling” comments; there are four groups, as I understand: British Cycling (BC), World Class Performance (WCP), Team Sky, and then a sprinkling of potentially rouge individuals (allegedly).
Have I seen, heard or known of issues; of course, lots of people feel aggrieved, but it’s usually WCP (the lottery funded race element) that complaints are targeted at, not BC (the administration element).
But in all the years I’ve been involved in women’s cycling, my direct contact with WCP could be counted on one hand. I’ve worked with amazing riders over the years, but WCP are a closed book.
They know we exist, but we’re insignificant to them. It feels to me like we are governed by a few, who operate with an air of entitlement. I want a fair and accountable BC, WCP and Team Sky all working with separate staff, from separate bases, with zero cross over, other than selected riders. I’d like question marks removed.
The current issues aren’t centred on sexism, equality and prejudice, the problem is the culture: it’s a them and us situation. Our national road champion made a bit of a booboo with his tweets.
He’s a hero to many, girls and boys, but he must remember there are three sides to every story: Their Side, Your Side, and Twitter’s Side. If you don’t want twitter’s side, don’t tweet it.
Much has been made about equality but we aren’t even asking for real equality, just a fair crack of the whip. Emma Pooley isn’t “self-centred” and she’s had to get over a lot. A call for a women’s Team Sky by Emma, a podium finisher in a Grand Tour (something I’m guessing Mr Kennaugh is aspiring to be) is old news.
I’m confident in saying Emma wasn’t asking for £24m per annum, the reported budget of Team Sky. She’d be looking at around £1m to put an unrivalled women’s team in place. That team would have been the chicken; people in the UK knowing about the women’s Giro d’Italia is the egg.
We’ve heard that Shane Sutton is a straight shooter, I’m cool with that, but nasty isn’t all you can shoot straight. Perhaps he’s “bad cop”, but in recent years he’s lacked a good cop sidekick.
The culture in BC & WCP isn’t helping educate riders in what’s seemingly obvious to others, separate academy systems in different countries isn’t helping. But all the blame isn’t just on WCP, Sutton, Dave Brailsford, etc. Accusing eyes should be peering into boardrooms, where these outrageous decisions are made to exclude women from cycling budgets.
Perhaps if those sponsoring teams had a recently calibrated moral compass, there would be greater pressure to change the culture. We need to check we have the latest firmware update.
Will this furore affect the team performance in Rio? Absolutely not, provided selections are correct, our riders will go there and battle hard for every medal. We are the richest cycling nation, expectations are high.
But Shane was the performance director, meaning he directed. The coaches with the day-to-day contact with the riders are still there, working hard. This might bring the team together. They’ll move on, perform to their maximum, that’s how winners work.
We have to remember that as coaches, directors and motivators (to many), WCP enjoy unparalleled success, all be it with unparalleled budgets. They’ve been called all sorts of things this week, because allegedly they called people all sorts of things over the past years. But we have to respect their success, and hope in the future we can find a new method to repeat that success in a new happy harmony.
Much of this allegedly unhappy period behind closed doors at WCP & BC was under the watch of Brian Cookson. He passed over to the UCI, giving us new hope, for several minutes, that the system might change. Broken promises followed, buried under piles of frustration, as women’s cycling treads water awaiting real change.
I turn to movies and music for my escapism in life. The last week has taken me back to real classic, Team America. They claim in this marionette masterpiece there are three types of people in this world, and this week we’ve seen all three clearly on display.
But maybe, going forward, a fourth kind of person will be found, who’ll not only provide us the stability we need in cycling in the UK, but also ensure a sequel to this classic movie is brought to the big screen sooner rather than later.
Stef Wyman is owner of women’s cycling team Matrix Fitness p/b Corley Cycles and husband of champion cyclocross rider Helen Wyman