This cycling battle is about so much more than a race

On Sunday I was minding my own business, curled up on my couch flipping back and forth between the blowout that was the Super Bowl and a Law & Order: SVU marathon (the later of which was far more entertaining) when I picked up a second screen and started to scroll through my Twitter feed.

There amidst the jokes at the Denver Broncos expense and the very divisive topic on the quality of Bruno Mars as halftime performer was game-changing news:

There would be a women’s race in conjunction with the Tour de France.

Here’s the skinny: The race will be called La Course and it’s a one-day women’s race that will take place on the Champs-Elyseés to accompany the final stage of the Tour.

Here’s how it happened: A group of elite female cyclists and triathletes, including author and documentary film maker Kathryn Bertine and four-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington, went to the organizers of the Tour de France and asked. Perhaps demanded. However it went down, it was certainly forceful and effective. They asked with the force of an online social movement which demanded that women be given an opportunity to race in the most prestigious and well-known event in cycling.

Why it’s important: Whenever I bring up women participating in the Tour de France I inevitably get a few people who spit on the idea saying that women can’t compete for the yellow jersey among that kind of field of male cyclists. Here’s the point: Of course they can’t. Right now.

The dreamers are the ones who see what is missing and coupled with smart activism find a way to fill the void. The world can dream bigger and create new opportunities faster if our collective vision is expanded. Sure, Kathryn Bertine and Kristin Armstrong found their way to elite cycling (and Chrissie Wellington to Ironman) without women in the Tour de France. But how many more girls would be inspired if they saw people just like themselves racing  on the Champs-Elyseés? When you are given the tools to see what is possible, you can build something amazing, take it to a different level, one that those founders never could have imagined at the time.

And while this work on the surface is about providing equitable competitive opportunities to female cyclists and expanding the stage for the sport, there’s a deeper level upon which this affects change. You don’t need to win in order to love racing. Hell, you don’t need to race to love riding. Seeing stories of women facing their fears and working hard and embracing their joy and passion, well that’s inspiration that goes beyond racing bikes. That speaks to spirit. And if it creates more active, healthy, passionate, engaged women (and men) around the globe, that becomes game-changing well beyond one day in Paris.

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