Believe it or not, it is almost time to turn the page on 2017. To close out the year, we are taking a look back at 13 of the stories that shaped the year. This list is by no means comprehensive and is loosely intended to be in chronological order, starting with the 2017 U.S. Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford.
The past year has been a memorable one for Women’s cyclocross.
After years of growth, the level of talent in the Women’s fields has become manifest in the great racing week after week. Last January, I spoke with Katie Compton and Ellen Noble and Emma White, and they all agreed the quality of the talent and racing was noticeable to them as well. It is no surprise that the Women’s U23 and Elite races at Worlds were both full-blown lituations and must-see TV.
However, as Cyclocross Magazine has documented over the years, equality for women in the sport has been slow to keep pace with the quality and excitement of the racing.
This entry in our Year in Review was subject to some discussion among our Cyclocross Magazine team. All of the entries in this column could have had their own Year in Review posts, but we decided to include all of them in one post celebrating the successes and the improvements still needed in Women’s cyclocross both nationally and internationally.
North American ’Cross Success
The results American and Canadian women have been turning in on the international stage in 2017 have been
good impressive 💯.
We previously covered Ellen Noble’s second-place finish at U23 Worlds, which followed up a season where she won the U23 World Cup overall title. Noble followed up her U23 title with a third-place finish at World Cup Waterloo in just her second World Cup as an Elite rider.
In the Elite race at Worlds, Canadian Maghalie Rochette (Clif Pro Team) had an eye-catching ride, finishing fifth.
Kaitie Keough (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) has been a model of consistency this year. Keough finished second in both the Jingle Cross and Waterloo World Cups and has been making the trips to Europe to continue racing the World Cup series. With just two races left, she currently sits in second place in the overall series. Keough’s consistency was also on display during the inaugural US Cup-CX series, which she won after winning four of the seven series races.
Some of Keough’s most memorable races in 2017 have been against fellow U.S. standout Katie Compton. After a couple of forgettable U.S. World Cup races, Compton has been on fire during her season-long European campaign. She currently leads the IJsboerke Ladies Trofee series by 4:44 over Nikki Brammeier (Boels-Dolmans) and is a weekly sight at the front of all the European races. Compton’s consistency has been evident in her results. She has finished in the top four in 13 of the 17 European races she has done since the beginning of October. Her plan for getting good TV time on the race streams has paid off.
Bunny hopping the barriers is common in both domestic and international men’s cyclocross races, but the skill has been less common in the women’s fields. Historically, only a handful of women have been seen hopping the barriers in UCI races, including 2017 Comeback Kid Pauline Ferrand-Prevot.
Two years ago, Ellen Noble set out to change that. After practicing off the course, Noble was finally ready to take her air show to the big stage this year. On Friday night under the lights at Jingle Cross, Noble hopped the barriers lap after lap. Can women bunny hop the barriers? You betcha.
On Instagram, Noble said what the moment meant to her.
“After 2 years of practicing, crashing, talking about it and dreaming of it; I finally bunny hopped barriers in a UCI race. On paper it doesn’t seem like much, but what it signifies means so much. I never want to stop pushing my own boundaries and – hah- breaking down barriers in the sport. This one was a big step for me. Thank you to everyone for all the love and cheers throughout last night. It wasn’t my best race, but every time I hopped these freaking things I felt a surge of excitement and found a way to dig a little deeper.”
Noble’s post included the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #bunnyhopthepatriarchy. Her leadership in showing that yes, women can bunny hop the barriers just like men sparked something much deeper among women in the cycling community. The #bunnyhopthepatriarchy hashtag had become a movement for empowering women in cycling.
Since Noble’s air show in Iowa, a number of women including Ashley Zoerner, KK Santos and Jolanda Neff have flown over the barriers and other women who might have otherwise not tried the skill have been inspired to learn to fly like Noble.
The hashtag has also empowered women to speak out for hopping the metaphorical barriers facing women in cycling. For more on Noble and her journey to getting air and finding her voice, check out this story by Anne-Marije Rook in Cyclingtips.
Some Miles to Go for Equality
As Helen Wyman talked about when I interviewed her this summer, Women’s cyclocross has come a long way in terms of equality with men, but it still has ways to go. We highlighted the issue of equal pay in our look at World Cup Waterloo and Trek’s offering of equal payouts for the Women’s race.
One area where there is still a long way to go is the availability of contracts for women racers. At the international level, Wyman fought to ensure that the UCI teams have to include at least one woman, but as of this writing, there are only 21 women on 17 UCI teams.
The limited availability of funding became manifest in three high-profile cases this year.
As Wyman has documented in her Wyman Wednesday columns, she has been looking for a team come January 1. Wyman has been turning in top-level finishes this year, including a win at Koppenbergcross and back-to-back seconds at the Bogense and Zeven World Cups. Wyman has been dropping hints on social media that something is in the works, but she has still been up front about the struggle to find funding to race in 2018.
Another woman rider who almost found herself out of cyclocross this year was Caroline Mani. Mani ended the 2016/17 season with results most riders would die for. She finished second at Worlds in 2016 and then finished second at the Jingle Cross World Cup. She then went on to finish third at the European Championships and won French Nationals.
After changes in the Raleigh-Clement team, Mani was without a team when she raced at Sea Otter earlier this year. Toward the end of the summer, Mani started a GoFundMe fundraiser to try to crowdfund her season. The effort came up short, but Van Dessel and Atom Composites stepped in to offer her sponsorship for the season. Mani has gone on to have a solid season racing in the U.S., including four UCI wins in November and December.
A third affected woman who was unable to make a season happen was Amanda Miller. Miller was arguably the breakout story of the 2016/17 season, with a top five at the Valkenburg World Cup and then a second-place finish at U.S. Nationals in Hartford. After changes with her former team, Miller has not raced this season.
Miller’s story is a reason for pause —imagine a male second-place finisher at Nationals not having a team for the next year — but other top women in the sport also have to work as both athlete and program manager. Katie Compton has run her own KFC Racing for a number of years now and other women such as Rebecca Fahringer have had to put together their own programs as well.
With the results Wyman, Mani and Miller have had this year, if they were men, it is hard to imagine a world where they would all be looking for teams to race for.
2017 has been a banner year for Women’s cyclocross, but there are still some miles to go. Fortunately, with voices such as Katerina Nash and Helen Wyman on the UCI Cyclocross Commission and Ellen Noble and other young women advocating for equality in cycling, we are excited to see what story there will be to tell in our Year in Review a year from now.