In response to the Tour Down Under using junior cyclists to present prizes instead of podium girls, Flanders Classics hostess Lien Crapoen says that there is more to her work than just handing flowers to the day’s winner.
The Australian stage race this year decided to do away with podium hostesses and have junior cyclists hand out the flowers instead, and now Belgian’s biggest races are under fire too from the Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities, Elke Sleurs, who has criticised the tradition.
However Crapoen has defended her role, saying that there is much more to her work than meets the eye.
“Some people don’t seem to realise that my work is much more than looking beautiful on the podium,” Crapoen told Sporza.
“The Tour of Flanders, for example, is the busiest day of the year for me. I’m part of the event’s organisation. The victory ceremony is only part of it. I give the flowers, but it is more than that. I think of it as hostess work. I escort other people on stage for the camera angles, and so on.
“That’s the difference, for example, with a beauty pageant. Those are just a meat inspection, where women are only on stage to be look at. I’ve never taken part in them.”
UCI WorldTour stage race in Australia, which finishes on Sunday, no longer includes hostesses presenting the day’s winner his flowers. The South Australian government, which partially funds the race, pulled the brakes on one of cycling’s traditions.
On Wednesday, Sky’s Mikel Landa said, “Podium girls presenting the prizes is an old tradition, it’s like treating the women them as objects, and undervaluing them.”
Crapoen, however, suggests people need to look further than the podium. She works on many events throughout the year for Flanders Classics and of course, works for its races, from Ghent-Wevelgem to the Tour of Flanders.
“I can understand the reaction of the Secretary of State and other people,” added Crapoen. “The question could be: why do people see us as a stereotype?
“Personally, I have never perceived my work as sexist. I am wrapped up and no one forces me to do it. Do we not look good?”
Crapoen is part of a two-women podium team with Maja Leye. In the 2013 Tour of Flanders, Peter Sagan pinched Leye’s backside, which Leye called “completely inappropriate”. Sagan apologised the next day.