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A Female Lance Armstrong? Yes Virginia, a Girl Can Be a World Class Cyclist!

 

Most everyone has heard of Lance Armstrong. They know him as a cancer survivor and founder of the Livestrong Foundation. They also may know him as a pro cyclist who has won the Tour de France an unprecedented seven times. Armstrong’s tenacity and phenomenal success has raised global awareness and support for the fight against cancer. His high profile position as a cyclist has generated huge popularity for bike racing especially the Tour de France which ended its 97 season July 25, 2010 along the famed Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris.

I was unfamiliar with Armstrong until half a dozen years or so ago when I saw a poster at a local branch of the US Post Office. At the time Lance Armstrong was riding for the professional cycling team known as US Postal. I knew nothing about Armstrong, professional bike racing, or the Tour de France. As I am a curious woman, I wanted to know more about the man that inspired the post office to display a sign that exclaimed “Go Lance!”.

I tuned into a television broadcast of the race. I had tuned into of the mountain stages. I saw men pushing their big hearts into the red zone. They climbed to heights that I couldn’t walk up, at least not without getting dizzy. It took my breath away. I learned that the Tour is 21 days of consecutive, except for two rest days, of pedaling. There are speed stages and mountain stages. I still can't think of another event where athletes must perform at their limit for three weeks in succession. To be a winner at the Tour de France a cyclist must endure heat, cold, rain and sunshine; mobs of fans and paparazzi within inches of their face; extended days in the bike saddle nonstop – no stops for eating and only the occasional brief stop along the side of the road when nature calls, and, when it does, the relief is taken in full view of  fans and their cameras. I was hooked by what I saw, and have been a fan of the Tour de France ever since.

One day I heard a sportscaster mention that an accident had occurred when one of the women’s pro cycling team had been out training. Several of the women cyclists were killed. It was the first I’d heard of a women’s Tour de France. As I was composing this post I was writing that I've not heard about women every since. Then on tonight's July 24 broadcast of the Tour on Versus the channel aired a segment on the women on HTC-Columbia! Kudos to Versus!

It isn't easy to find information on the women's Tour de France. Details are sketchy and dispersed across the Internet. Here's what I have been able to piece together. For the full text visit my blog Living in the Heartland.

(story based on resource material from Wikipedia, Helium.com, cyclingnews.com,and photo highroadsports.com).

Comments
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The Distaff Side

Hi Pamela,
Interesting post to read since I used to race and have followed the sport for years. There is no question that the men's races are more popular to watch - from any vantage point. Their sheer speed and strength are exciting. However, having said that, it's also true that competitive cycling for women has gotten faster and more exciting, too. Women used to have the Ore-Ida women's stage race in Idaho that was only for women, no men's version, and it was a boon for the ladies. Most of the time, cycling events will be set up so there are preliminary events raced prior to the "main event" which is fine but always sets up junior, masters and women's races as "runner-up" in status.

Tour organizers in France seemed always to believe that women couldn't handle long arduous stages like men can; they have the old-school idea that a woman's body is too weak to handle tough conditions. The truth is they handle difficulty differently.

In the Olympics, distances are shorter for road races (also, women still do not have a 1,650 yd race for the swimmers). Runners do have the marathon.

Cycling is a great sport with lots of amazing stories of courage and spirit, but it also has its problems.

Thanks,
Christine

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Female Lance Armstrong

Christine, I'm glad you saw my post and replied. I'd love it if you'd visit my main blog www.livingintheheartland.com and leave a similar response. As to your comment about women's performance, I agree that women's bodies are different and subsequently performance is different. Different isn't necessarily bad. I remember hearing a sports commentator compare how women play basketball vs men. The male broadcaster observed that women play a purer form of basketball. He said women focus on team work and passing, as opposed to flash and slam dunk ball. The flash of star players and dunk tricks, however, are now valued over the team aspect of the game. This may be why women's basketball is viewed as slower, less exciting. It's not bad basketball, it's just different. American women have performed better in softball (vs baseball) and soccer at the Olympics in recent years, but the support for these women's sports dissipated soon after after wards. Why, when more than 50 percent, of the population are women, can't we support more women heroes? You know who Michael Phelps is, but do you know Lynne Cox? Check her out. There isn't a man who has accomplished what she has in the water especially in Antarctica!

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Ms Cox

Cool you mentioned Lynne Cox as I read her book Swimming To Antarctica a few years ago. I could name a few dozen other female swimmers I've admired through the years, all of whom blow my doors off in the pool. I love the sport immensely and feel it is one of the few sports that has benefitted from Title IX in this country. I had to stop competing at age 19 or so because of the disparity in funding for women's versus men's sports pre-Title IX. Actually, that law has hurt so-called minor men's sports programs due to wrong-headed interpretation of the law. But, the subject is women's cycling and sports here. I'll be happy to comment on your blog tomorrow.

Thanks very much,
Christine

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Women Athletes

I look forward to your comment, and hope you will be a regular visitor. I used to love to swim, noncompetitively though. I swam about a mile twice a week when I was pregnant with my first child. I'd do it at night, mostly backstroke. It was great for the mind as well as the body. The lights above the pool attracted bats, so I'd be treated to their protean flight as I plowed my way through the water like a big mother ship.