Dr Hutch: Why women were the pioneers of bike racing

If it wasn't for female riders, we'd all still be falling off our Penny Farthings

Doctor Hutch
(Image credit: Alamy)

Women’s bike racing goes back further than you probably think. It all started with the first classic “men’s” road race from Paris to Rouen in 1869, which wasn’t a men’s event at all but was open to anyone. There were, in fact, practically no rules about anything other than that you couldn’t catch the train, use a sail, or harness up a dog team. It was essentially the Wacky Races.

It takes nothing away from the fairground atmosphere that the first woman to sink her brandy in the finish café in Rouen had entered under the name Miss America, despite being more normally called Elizabeth Turner. She was married to a British bike importer, and finished in the same time as her husband. I like to believe she nicked him in the sprint and needled him about it for the rest of their lives.

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Michael Hutchinson is a writer, journalist and former professional cyclist. As a rider he won multiple national titles in both Britain and Ireland and competed at the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. He was a three-time Brompton folding-bike World Champion, and once hit 73 mph riding down a hill in Wales. His Dr Hutch columns appears in every issue of Cycling Weekly magazine