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Pro Cycling Is About to Get Its Moment in the Spotlight

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These days, it seems like everyone and their mom is calling him or herself a runner. And that’s awesome, considering all the mind and body perks of a good run. But cycling is great for you, too, though we’re betting you don’t have half as many “cyclist” friends as you do running buddies. That may be about to change, thanks to some steps being taken by the Union Cycliste International, the governing body of the cycling world. (Find out What the Future Holds for Bikers Across the Globe.)

In a recent meeting, the organization announced some big news for 2015—news that's especially great for women. To start, they're bringing the UCI Women's Road World Cup (the highest level road race) to the US next year. "The Women's World Cup was something that happened in Europe, but now it's becoming more relevant on a global scale. The fact that an American city is investing time and money into it will help to build more buzz," says Katie Sue Gruener of Specialized Bicycle Components. Called The Parx Casino Philly Classic, the Women's World Cup will take place this June in Philidelphia. This is just the first we'll see of many more women’s races around the world, as well as televised coverage of those races. Although it seems totally 19th-century, that’s actually pretty major, given the disparity between men’s and women’s cycling that still exists today. Not only are women not invited to many of the major road races around the world, men earn much more money in the sport of pro road riding than their female counterparts.

In fact, it was just last summer that a women’s race was added to 2014 Tour de France. Called “La Course,” it was a one-day event that took place on the final day of the men’s three-week event. “The race organizers saw the growth of female cycling and decided to do the one-day race for women, finishing on the Champs d’Elysee,” says Gruener. And it was a big deal: Fifteen female national champions participated in the race that was broadcasted in over 140 countries, according to a UCI release. It was such a success, in fact, that the UCI plans to stage similar events with other major cycling competitions this year, and in the future. Believe it or not, “there are a lot of other really important races besides the Tour de France,” says Gruener. "Vuelta a Espana (the Tour of Spain bicycle race), for example, will hold a one-day race and The USA Pro Challenge (a seven-day men-only race) is also adding a multi-day women's event in Colorodo, which is huge," says Gruener. 

So, why should you care? Realistically, you and I are never going to compete in (much less win) one of these competitions. But it still matters: First, taking steps to add more women's races and to draw more attention to them is simply a boon for equality. It’s also helping to make cycling more accessible. As the sport gains more mainstream popularity, more and more women may be inspired to get off the spin bike and actually hit the road. (Find out 10 Ways to Go From Spin Class to the Road.) And that’s a great thing, considering all the perks of riding (for example, not only is it a great cardio workout that torches calories and fat, but it allows you to get outside and enjoy a little natural fresh air—never a bad thing!). Just check out Why A Bike is Better than a Boyfriend.

And there is something else in it for you and me: “(These steps) mean brands such as Specialized are able to create high performance bikes and gear for women competing at the professional level. The technology developed for the women at the top professional level is then tweaked for recreational and fitness riders, creating a trickle down effect," says Gruener. In other words, when pro cyclists get more attention, amateur cyclists win too!

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