Emma Pooley questions Dave Brailsford's involvement in setting up Team Sky to win the Tour de France and why there was never a similar plan to help a woman win the Giro d'Italia

Emma Pooley is the latest cyclist to add to claims of sexism within British Cycling, saying that when it came to setting up a road team there was never a plan to create a women’s one.

>>> Peter Kennaugh swiftly deletes tweets criticising Emma Pooley sexism claims

The 33-year-old has returned to road racing and the British Cycling fold this year in time for the Rio Olympic Games and will ride for Great Britain at Saturday’s Tour de Yorkshire.

BC’s technical director Shane Sutton was suspended and resigned his role over allegations of discrimination, but Pooley believes Sir Dave Brailsford played his part in the alleged sexism within the senior managment.

“I think the issue is much bigger than [Sutton],” she told the Guardian. “If you’re going to ask questions of Shane Sutton you have to ask them of Dave Brailsford too.

“I wish more questions had been asked of him before he was awarded his knighthood and moved to [Team] Sky. It was when he was running British Cycling that there was no women’s Team Sky.”

>>> What you need to know about the British Cycling discrimination scandal

She added: “Why didn’t anyone ask how it could be that a publicly funded body like British Cycling joined together with a privately funded team – Sky – on a mission to get a British winner of the Tour de France within five years?

“Why wasn’t there a similar plan for the women? The women’s Giro d’Italia was the most important race for women but where was the funding for that? I came second twice and no one from British Cycling offered to put together a team to help me win it.”

Pooley insisted that the “majority” of people within British Cycling were hardworking and committed to helping athletes win medals, no matter what age, race or gender.

>>> Geraint Thomas: Shane Sutton has done more than most for British Cycling

Sutton’s suspension came after Paralympic gold medal-winning cyclist Darren Kenny alleged that the Australian called para-cyclists “gimps” and “wobblies”.

Track sprinter Jess Varnish also alleges that Sutton told her to “go and have a baby” when her contract was not renewed on the Olympic programme. Nicole Cooke and Victoria Pendleton are others to claim that sexism is prevalent in the governing body.

Sutton denies the allegations against him, but resigned his post on Wednesday so as not to cause a distraction to the riders preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

  • Mark Jones

    I agree, but the Grand Depart was a result of British success in the Tour de France with Wiggins and Cav.

  • David Bassett

    I think you will find that the money that went into The Sky pro team is on top of what went into BC. And as far as British Cycling is concerned every penny was well spent.

  • David Bassett

    Gelderdender

    If Beryl Burton had been born later than 1937 and the first woman’s Olympic road race was well before 1984 then the record books would have looked a bit different. No money in the sport did not put Beryl Burton off racing on a bike. And a nice person to boot. Beryl won I think at least nine world gold medals, and I don’t think she ever bad mouthed her team mates for not getting her in position to win. I will not go on, as I do not wish to bad mouth riders who did cry about their team mates. I am so glad that woman’s road racing has got so good that when our best female road rider got caught on Saturday in the last couple of miles that we still had a girl on the podium. Chicken and egg has been mentioned, women’s cycling WILL get more money, as it is becoming a more attractive sport. Just look at the woman’s down hill riders.

  • David Bassett

    If Beryl Burton had been born later than 1937 and the first woman’s Olympic road race was well before 1984 then the record books would have looked a bit different. No money in the sport did not put Beryl Burton off racing on a bike. And a nice person to boot. Beryl won I think at least nine world gold medals, and I don’t think she ever bad mouthed her team mates for not getting her in position to win. I will not go on, as I do not wish to bad mouth riders who did cry about their team mates. I am so glad that woman’s road racing has got so good that when our best female road rider got caught on Saturday in the last couple of miles that we still had a girl on the podium. Chicken and egg has been mentioned, women’s cycling WILL get more money, as it is becoming a more attractive sport. Just look at the woman’s down hill riders.

  • Le fig roll

    “Believe none of what hear and half of what you see”. The relationship with sky and a body funded by tax payers was always going to be uncomfortable (look at the relationship between Murdoch and successive governments). Charitably, maybe sir Dave took the long view and made a deal with Sky to promote cycling through ultimate success at the tdf. The raised public profile and greater involvement / investment leading to greater support for all facets of our sport. Women’s racing included. This is the BC model, remember when the only world class performers we had were Chris Boardman and Jason Quealy? They won gold medals that attracted lottery funding that meant we could build a talent base that infrastructure that would ultimately be world beating. Uncharitably, sir Dave is an egotist, bent with a personal dream to win the tour at all costs and use whatever means necessary to get there abandoning all morals and ethics to get there. As a side bar, the last two women’s Olympic road races have been phenomenal, Nichole cookes’s gold was brilliant gutsy riding and watching Lizzie arrmitstead’s London ride was similarly thrilling, edge of the seat stuff. I’d say better racing than the men’s events. By equal measure, this years Paris Roubaix was great sport. Sport should be about sport, not gender. Now, talking of inverse gender inequality in sport, shall we talk about cricket and football?

  • Tom Walker

    Why dont women then pack out womens sporting events.
    That question is for those that are wanting equal rights without really considering the full picture.
    Answer that one

  • Tom Walker

    Sorry but its a world of Bums on Seats.No one ( not even women) would go to see womens cycling in their droves.
    Thats a fact.How many women go to watch womens football if you are bringing the football argument up.Nothing to do with promotion its there its available for people to watch but they dont.Stop looking for scapegoats.

  • Paul Robertson

    When I opened the link to this, one of the promoted stories at the bottom of the page was to a ‘story’ on the 14 hottest female footballers!

  • Chris

    Well, go somewhere else then. No seriously, for someone who claims to be so well educated in the English language, I find your repertoire of insults extremely predictable and repetitive. Feel free to try harder. I’m done here.

  • veloaficionado

    Ah . . . yeah. Two X chromosomes, or one? I just love the chump MAMIL trolls this publication attracts.

  • Chris

    LOL. Some people, particularly old maids, are so easy to wind up.

  • veloaficionado

    I guess you’re just a bitter old dinosaur, or know one. When you’ve got a postgrad degree in English, and an English teaching qualification (ahem, as have I), you can tell me off for misuse of words. Until then, you can’t. Back to the dinosaur tarpit, continue wallowing . . . you might get out soon. One day. Maybe.

  • Chris

    OK I suppose that was your best effort. Why so bitter? At least you have plenty of time to ride your bike. Just one small point, I would never apologise for SS, since he has done nothing to apologise for. One tip: when you don’t understand a word, don’t use it. You can go now.

  • veloaficionado

    Yeah, right. Postdoctorate level logic (and kindergarten insults) from you too. ” . . . at the time, there wasn’t much interest in women’s cycling” Now, why do you think that was? Because it was magically less worthy than men’s, just because average speeds were a few km/h slower? Or because crusty old dinosaurs like SS, whom you are a kneejerk apologist for, just had it in their heads that women were inferior cyclists, hence didn’t deserve a budget to promote and administer that side of the sport, because they belonged in the kitchen, hence it wasn’t shown anywhere, reported anywhere . . . ? Chicken and egg. Why does football get more exposure than cycling? Because it is a naturally superior sport? Sexism and misogyny run deep, and those exhibiting it think it’s ‘the way things are/were/will be”

  • Patrick Smith

    The race was started because of the success of the Grand Depart in Yorkshire in 2014.

  • Carl Hawkins

    Of course they do. Professional cycle sport is a business. Like any other profession.

  • Chris

    I have noticed that when the weak minded have no viable argument they revert to insults. Now let me hear your properly thought out answer to Lee Wingate’s point without reverting to insults.

  • Chris

    I rest my case. Nothing positive again!
    Just keep whinging. No one is listening now. You have had your chance.

  • SEN 5241

    Pathetic, Just a pathetic non-reply.

  • Simon Clarke

    I hope you’re better at cycling than you are at thread baiting….

  • Simon Clarke

    Nail, hit head.

  • Simon Clarke

    Maybe someone should stop and remind the women cyclists, that they’re just not that good compared to the blokes. i want to watch the best sporting events and athletes in the world, I’m not interested in the subset of that group that comes with a pair of ovaries, just because they have ovaries. If you want equal coverage, equal pay, equal equity in the sport- compete with the blokes. Don’t get all whiney because evolution dealt you a second rate card and think that you’re owed what amounts to differential treatment.

  • Riggah

    It’s the other way around. No funding because of no interest. If you want “exposure” you have to supply a product that people want.

  • Riggah

    Similarly, no one has a “right” to earn a living from sport. If people are willing to pay to watch you play/ride/run/drive/throw/jump then great, make a living from it while you can. If the public are not willing to pay to watch you and aren’t interested in watching you in big enough numbers for you to get paid a living wage then either make the sport more marketable or do what the rest of us have to do; get a job and enjoy your sport as an amateur.

  • Riggah

    I haven’t seen any protests from the women demanding to play 5 sets, but they take the equal prize money anyway.

  • Chris

    You and veloaficionado above, are the nub of the problem. By your sexist comments you do nothing but bring cycling into disrepute. You add nothing positive. You are a credit to your gender.

  • Gelderdender

    Yes – agreed that as a private company Sky could do what they wanted.
    Surely though the problem here is that the public funding from UK Sport was focussed on the TDF – where a Sky team raced, not a GB team. Shane Sutton it appears is still being paid by Sky whilst part of the BC set-up and BC claim they were not aware? This is unbelievable in this day and age, the idea that someone in charge of the national set up is also paid by a commercial organisation in the same sport opens up all sorts of questions about bias etc. The argument Pooley puts forward also extends into other forms of cycling – see what’s happened in Mountain Biking and BMX where athletes have been told they can’t go to World Championships even if they fund it all themselves, coincidentally these riders would appear to be those critical of Sutton, Brailsford or the set up.

  • Frobble

    Pooley said “I think the issue is much bigger than him (Sutton)”, so she is not taking aim at Sutton personally, but British Cycling collectively.

    To denigrate the riders’ behaviour as “playing the sexism card” is to trivialise their experience. If he was making sexist comments and decisions, then you have sexism in the workplace and the riders speaking out were on the receiving end of it. Making a complaint against such unacceptable behaviour is not “playing a card”.

  • Chris

    Dave Brailsford and his team, inc. Shane Sutton have done a brilliant job dragging cycling into the public eye. For Messrs. Pooley and her crowd, only now to start denigrating members of that team, shows a meaness of spirit and quite frankly puts back the cause of women’s racing by ten years. If I was a sponsor, I would be looking for a sport which had its internal affairs in order. We have seen other sports where one faction was trying to outdo another, and in each case sponsors have pulled out of contracts lucrative to that sport.

  • SEN 5241

    Some of the disgusting sexist comments on here do nothing but demonstrate the depth of the problem.

  • Dave

    You have to ask where the UCI is in this and why they aren’t doing more.

    For example, they could encourage the setting up of elite women’s teams like Lotto Soudal Ladies, Orica-AIS, Liv-Plantur (sister team of Giant-Alpecin) by counting the women’s ranking points towards the points totals needed to get into the WorldTour.

  • Dave

    Rochelle Gilmore, Wiggle and Bradley Wiggins did just that – it’s called Wiggle-High5.

  • Carl Hawkins

    Some people might even go for the fat arsed ones.

  • Carl Hawkins

    I’ve watched Emma Pooley (TheChicken) ride GP Plouay and been very impressed. I’ve watched the women’s Worlds RR and been impressed. I’ve ridden with world class women cyclists and they’re obviously ‘world class’. It annoys me that somebody like Shane Sutton who has obviously worked tirelessly for British Cycling has now lost his job over a few benign petty comments that could possibly be construed as sexist by a political correct beurocracy.
    The fact that these impressive riders are now joining forces and slagging somebody off and playing the sexism card really annoys me. It makes them sound like a bunch of prima Donna’s.
    They are not worthy of the same prize money or TV coverage as the men, otherwise Eurosport would show six hours of live coverage of their race. Fact.

  • veloaficionado

    Mmm, lots of sexism evident in the comments below . . . by fat MAMILS with inferiority complexes, I’m guessing.

  • Sutton Atkins

    Sky (as a sponsor and a private company) had no obligation to set-up a womens pro team. BC has an obligation, yes. But in terms of a massive project, funded mainly from a private company/sponsors, only if another company sponsor came along and said “We have an idea, we want to fund a project to win the women’s Giro”. But unfortunately no company wanted to do that. It’s not up to BS to split the sponsors money, unless the sponsor wants to.

  • Arch Stanton

    The Ancient Greeks had just one event at their games – it was open to all.

    Modern Society now creates events for, 1) men 2) women 3) light weight men (rowing) 4) paralympics (various categories) 5) U23, U21, U19 etc. Even junior rugby is now being broken down into weight categories cos’ diddums doesn’t want to get hurt. There was an article yesterday on TLGB(? – have I missed anything?) in sport yesterday. Should all these have equal finance if state sponsored, or should we just back winners?

  • Frobble

    Are you seriously suggesting that Emma Pooley doesn’t know how hard it is to win a grand tour? Watch her finish the 2008 Beijing time trial as silver medalist and tell me that she doesn’t know how hard top level cycling is.

    I think her point is exactly that it is damned hard, and double damned hard when your own cycling federation doesn’t do all they can to help.

  • Wilson

    This makes me nostalgic for tough amateurs who had a job, trained and raced, and didn’t feel entitled to anything, just did it for the love of the sport and competition. This is just layers of self-centred moaning.

  • ummm…

    well, do women want to play the same number of sets? is there a logic to that rule or do you assume it is the patriarchy? also, what are the stats on the profitability of womens tennis? Undoubtedly it is profitable, but are they getting a fair share of the tickets they sell?

  • Gelderdender

    Are you really questioning her on effort and focus and dedication. Or do you mean the team?
    And what’s the comment about ‘in the Guardian’ about?
    I believe that her point is that if they had put some money in we could have had more winners on the female side, which should generate more interest and therefore more sponsorship. After all Nicole Cooke became the first British rider to win a Grand Tour and also the first to win a Road Olympic Gold but ask most people and they will tell you it was Wiggins because cycling didn’t start until about 2012 for a lot of people.

  • Lee Wingate

    It would be nice if women’s tennis played the same number of sets for the same prize money as the men though to be fair!

  • ummm…

    dont let unhappy athletes cloud your judgement. I think womens cycling can be profitable. Look at women tennis – they are great and cute. Imagine seeing all these great female athletes compete hard, in lycra nonetheless. sign me up.

  • ummm…

    womens groups tend to be insatiable and peddle faulty arguments – but the core is sound. Women want to get respect – in business that is investment. chicken or egg? first the investment or first the athletes that inspire?

  • ummm…

    dont let some women speak for all. also, try to start a dialogue with the women you dont agree with. that is the only way forwrad.

  • ummm…

    i hear your sentiment. the disingenuous arguments are taking away from women. women hurting women. I hope the womens tour continues to grow tho.

  • ummm…

    good comment

  • ummm…

    down with brailsford!!!! yaaayy lol. i think it is fair to ask him some questions as well if the investigation is looking into long standing practice

  • Supong Longchar

    It seems this controversy is so time to hit this time just at the onset of the greatest sporting event in half a decade. It was Jess, Danny….today is Emma…tmrw who all are lined up…B.C please take a stand. This controversy is least need at this time.

  • Dave2020

    There are a lot of confused people on these threads. Those in charge of public money have a duty to ensure an equitable distribution of funding. It was the ‘leverage’ to attract Sky into partnership with BC. Their name goes on the kit and that’s the end of it. Policy within BC should have spread the funding support equitably across disciplines and between genders. UK Sport are also at fault here in their criteria for the allocation of funds.

    But the sickness (in BC) goes much deeper. There are too many fragile egos, that can’t tolerate any criticism and feel that success by athletes outside their fiefdom actually ‘depletes’ their ego. That has been seen both in team selection and preferential funding to track racing. There is an all-consuming bias which even shows up in the biographies on the BC website!!!

    TV ratings and commercial interests have nothing to do with it.

  • Ian Carter

    Sorry, but it’s not sexist to ONLY start up a men’s team and you can’t lay the blame at Brailsfords feet because there isn’t a women’s Team Sky. Why doesn’t somebody else step up to create this women’s Team Sky (if Sky want to sponsor it of course, it’s their investment), instead of people thinking that DB should do everything and then suggesting he is sexist when he doesn’t?

  • Richard Rosser

    Excellent point – I don’t think that British Cycling said to Sir Dave Brailsford “How do you fancy having a go at doing this” I believe Brailsford said give me the money and the total control and I will do this.
    The mission to have a British winner of the Tour de France in 5 years is not a target set by a reasonable man, it is the target set by a driven individual or group of people to do something which has never been achieved before. To manage 3 British winners in the period is exceptional. Now we have the backlash from those who consider winning un-British.

  • I think some people forget Team Sky is a business at the end of the day – why should they set up another team to appease people?

  • Carl Hawkins

    The more I think about it the more ridiculous it sounds. They haven’t made a tour de France for fat people because they can’t keep up with Chris Froome. They don’t have a over seventies Tour of Flanders, (and if they do why is the prize money not the same and why is there no TV coverage?)
    It’s all down to interest from the public and the resulting financial input.
    Women have been gradually included in the proffessional ranks of the sport as interest ‘gradually’ increases.
    Now they’re starting to ‘expect’!
    Local3rd cat road races are more entertaining.
    For that reason ‘I’m out’.
    I’m boycotting watching women’s road racing

  • Mark Jones

    “The 33-year-old has returned to road racing and the British Cycling fold this year in time for the Rio Olympic Games and will ride for Great Britain at Saturday’s Tour de Yorkshire.”
    Emma’s happy to participate in a race that came about because of Team Sky’s success in the Tour de France then?

    She added: “Why didn’t anyone ask how it could be that a publicly funded body like British Cycling joined together with a privately funded team – Sky – on a mission to get a British winner of the Tour de France within five years?”
    And without getting that British winner we wouldn’t have the massive interest we have now. If the aim was to create a men’s and women’s team and for them both to do “quite well” then it just wouldn’t have had the same impact.

  • Mark Jones

    I agree and it will only be so long before Lizzie Armitstead joins in. Bigger strides have been made with British women’s cycling in the past 4 years than we saw in 40 years after Tommy Simpson with men’s cycling and still they moan. They even have the same prize money in Ride London for the criterium as the men’s road race!!

  • Riggah

    “She only won ’cause she’s faster than me!. That’s not fair!!”

  • Mark Jones

    I agree and these sort of comments will not help raise the profile and bring in more sponsors to women’s cycling. I have been a supporter of the Women’s Tour, but it’s perhaps more out of encouragement than wanting to watch the race. These comments are helping to draw me away from women’s cycling and I’m afraid to say that I will now think twice about watching the Women’s Tour again.

  • Gazzaputt

    The cats have their claws out for them

  • Mike Prytherch

    Setting up just a male team is not sexist, deciding not to set up a female team because they are women is sexist, I don’t see for one second why we should have to set-up a female team because we have a male team… and vice-versa

  • Riggah

    Does Emma Pooley actually understand how much effort, how much focus, how much dedication, how much budget it takes to win the Tour de France?
    She comes across as a bit of a narcissist, but this is in The Guardian so who knows what the facts are?

  • Carl Hawkins

    I don’t think I’ll bother watching womens cycling again. There just a bunch of moaners! And its not that exciting.

  • Peter

    Quite correct Texas, complaining negatively impacts both men and women’s cycling.

  • Texas Roadhouse

    No one part of any sport has a “right” to exist. The mainstream commercial focus has, until very recently, been almost exclusively on male cycling, which consequently draws the major cash influx. Far better those who are complaining about attitudes in cycling make their areas more attractive to sponsors. Whether you like it or not, women’s cycling (road, anyway) has not had a high profile in the sport until relatively recently. They need to build on what it is now – be positive, rather than focusing on possible negatives from the past.

  • Lee Wingate

    Is cycling weekly / pooley trying to smear Dave B as well? I remember at the time when Sky were set up, that there would not be a women’s team because, at the time, there wasn’t much interest in women’s cycling! And a finite amount of cash to spend all efforts were to go into getting a TdF winner.
    Sounds like sour grapes to me!

    Pooley should be pleased. Women’s cycling is on the up and the UCI are making more of an effort with a formal race series, all good positive stuff.