The SHEcret Pro: lies of equality, accidental doping, and kit fashion

For a couple years now, The Secret Pro has been providing an entertaining and informative perspective of life inside the professional men’s peloton. This season, we go inside the women’s peloton with posts from The Female Secret Pro (or should that be The SHEcret Pro?) As…

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For a couple years now, The Secret Pro has been providing an entertaining and informative perspective of life inside the professional men’s peloton. This season, we go inside the women’s peloton with posts from The Female Secret Pro (or should that be The SHEcret Pro?)

As with The Secret Pro, our insider from the women’s ranks will be kept anonymous, to allow her to write freely about the experience of being a female professional. Additionally, we might be dropping in the odd red herring, ensuring it’s not possible to guess the rider’s identity.

Hello dear readers,

Happy 2018 to you! The new year comes with a new race season, and if the first month of racing is anything to go by, we’ve got a good one ahead. Yes, I know it’s only February but the first block of racing has already been completed and the season is well underway.

Two steps forward, one step back

The 2018 UCI road season kicked off at the Tour Down Under, which featured three proper road stages instead of a bunch of crits. This is a vast improvement from previous years and a definite step in the right direction. The cherry on top was the subsequent announcement of equal prize money with the men’s race. Happy days.

It was followed by The Cadel Evans Road Race, which set the standard high for how women’s racing can and should be run. Great organisation, and great racing to back it up.

But then, it was onto the Sun Tour, which left me with a familiar bad taste in the mouth. Not quite to the extreme of a dodgy European stage race, but still a reminder that women’s races so often appear to be a token gesture or an afterthought at best.

Women’s cycling is in a difficult position at the moment. Disadvantaged, should we make bold demands to raise standards or do accept any scrap of so called ‘progress’ that comes our way? It’s a hard balance.

“You should be grateful,” is what we are told. And on the one hand I do get where they’re coming from. If ‘nothing’ is the alternative, we should be happy with something, anything. Right? But at what point do we stand up for ourselves and demand more. After all, some races are already there.

Let’s take The Women’s Tour as the golden example. This five-stage event through Britain is a great demonstration of how women’s cycling can and should be. Both the racing and the coverage are incredible, and the audience is there to match. It’s one shiny glimmer of hope in what at times feels like a bit of a hopeless time.

Two steps forward one step back is the way it’s felt so far. Change never comes about quickly or easily, but the push for equality in cycling has always been a fairly disorganised affair. We want it, the public has shown they want it, but nobody had taken control…until now.

Hot topic: Getting organised for change

It’s early days, but the formation of The Cyclists’ Alliance was a hot topic among riders and teams in Australia. Who knows whether it will actually bring about massive social change, or at the very least open a few eyes to the realities of the situation, but at least we now have a voice.

The first thing they did was publish the stats on salary in the women’s peloton. In case you missed it, Ella CyclingTips covered it all here. As a rider I was all too aware of this, but it’s never talked about publicly. Finally, the pennies most of us are scrapping for have been displayed in black and white.

Let’s be honest, unless you’re in the top few percent of riders in terms of results — or you’ve nailed the selfie game and have Instagram-status — you’re pretty much screwed.

Most of us are racing on passion and love for the sport, but it turns out you can’t actually live on this. There is a minimum amount of money required to function as an independent adult in this world.

It’s a sad state of affairs that it’s 2018 and it’s more economically viable to be a wag than be the one with the career. I’d be better off if I could find a male cyclist to marry; and then spend my days killing time instead of chasing a career of my own — doing yoga, going on hikes and instagramming a smoothie bowl that, as a professional cyclist, I can barely afford.

The problem is that most of us have been complicit in the ‘lie of equality’ at some point, myself included. Being on one of the biggest teams in women’s cycling, I’ve helped to spread this lie more than I would have liked. But if you don’t toe the line, you’re out.

Stick a pretty kit on your riders, even if they only get one set, get them to portray a desirable lifestyle, even though they’re living off next-to-no money and can barely afford to eat, and put words in their mouth and you can paint whatever picture you want.

I’ve been on teams where a couple of riders earn a relative fortune, and the rest of us are barely able to pay for a cup of coffee. Yet one look at the team and you would have said it was the picture of equality.

Putting lipstick on a pig just isn’t cutting it anymore. Here’s hoping that we, as riders, can come together, unite ourselves and with the help of The Cyclists’ Alliance bring about change.

Hot topic: ‘Accidental’ doping

The other hot topic on everyone’s lips at the moment is doping. Lately, the endless saga of ‘accidental’ doping violations isn’t reflecting too well on either side of the sport.

When Chris Froome hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, both the men’s and women’s pelotons let out a big sigh. Hopefully it’s a genuine error rather than something more sinister, but either way it doesn’t do anything to help the image of cycling.

I’m left with the same feelings as after Lizzie Armitstead and the mysterious case of the missed tests. Confused and a bit annoyed. How is it that the wealthiest and most highly managed riders in both the men’s and women’s peloton are making these mistakes? Maybe they feel untouchable, or are just used to having things done for them. I guess only they can tell you that.

At the end of the day they broke the rules though, so surely there’s a consequence. Only time will tell if this logic lines up.

2018 new kit fashion police

After such a heavy topic I thought I’d quickly give the people what they want, and dip my toe into the waters as fashion critic. New year means new kit, and everyone loves to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly.

Some have stayed as classy and understated as ever — Canyon SRAM I’m looking at you. Hopefully you’ll look so good on those bikes that it will make up for the team’s lack of results again this year.

On the other hand, some teams have managed to design more hideous kit than ever, despite the fact this seemed to be an impossibility. From the first selfie of the 2018 riders smiling through the pain, we could all breathe a sigh of relief that Ale Cipollini had retained their crown. When something is almost offensively bad, add some Hawaiian flowers to the clashing fluro and you’ve just bested yourself.

Finally, there’s the biggest team in the world of women’s cycling showing that they’ve got better things to do than design a race kit. Take the jersey template, apply sponsors and the job’s done!

What do you think? Who’s got the best/worst kit of 2018. Let me know in the comments, I’m always watching.

Until next time,

– The SHEcret Pro

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