Emma Pooley says that the reaction on Twitter to Pete Kennaugh’s tweets saying that no one cared about the women’s Giro d’Italia is evidence that people actually do want to watch more women’s cycling.
Responding to Pooley’s comments in a Guardian article which questioned why Sky didn’t also create a leading women’s team that could have helped her to win the Giro d’Italia Femminile, Kennaugh said that Sky wouldn’t financially back such a team because it is a race that “absolutely no one in the UK has absolutely no idea about.”
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The two-time and current British road race champion has since deleted his tweets and issued an apology.
“The response to what Pete Kennaugh said on Twitter was people saying that they do care about women’s cycling and they want to see more of it and that’s exactly the point of it [her comments],” Pooley told Cycling Weekly on the eve of the Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire, the first road race she has competed in since winning silver at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
“The point is not whether I would have won it or not, it’s whether little girls are watching cycling and are inspired to go cycling. The point is the trickle down effect of grassroots sport.
“He is welcome to his opinion. The response to what he said was more educational and said more than what he said himself.”
Pooley finished second on GC in both the 2011 and 2012 Giro before winning three stages on 2014. She told the Guardian that Sky should have set up a women’s team to go alongside the men’s WorldTour outfit, but believes her comments were distorted.
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“I felt I was misrepresented in the article because it made out that I was angry that I never got the support to win the Giro,” she said.
“That wasn’t the point I was trying to make. I was trying to give a counter example to the men’s Tour de France and the Sky team, in the fact that there wasn’t a women’s one.
“But it made out that I was like ‘I wanted to win the Giro, [but] no one give me support’ but that wasn’t what I was trying to say.
“The comments I made in the press was that I do think there was an unfairness and discrepancy with the general support of the road squad.
“For a while there wasn’t a women’s development team – even though I would never have raced in a U23 squad because I only started when I was 22 – but I thought on principle that Sky should have supported a women’s team as well.
“I said that in 2012 as well and I wasn’t only the one; I wasn’t some kind of mad radical. A lot of people questioned why there wasn’t a women’s team and I think the question has to be asked of the people who ran the Sky team and British Cycling.”
After a week of sexism and discrimination allegations against British Cycling and its staff, Pooley – who is targeting selection for this year’s time trial at the Rio Olympics – was keen on emphasising that she had never encountered sexism from the national governing body’s staff.
She added: “That [sexism] is not an accusation you can level at any individual coach or scientist at British Cycling. They all do a brilliant job. They really don’t care what’s under your skinsuit, they just want you to win a medal.
“I have never felt that British Cycling was sexist in what they offered me in terms of support for the Olympics. I just think that, though it sounds heartless, they just care about medals. That’s their job description.”