By: Whitney Allison
Whitney Allison is a long time professional cyclist, coming from a road background, with podiums at events like Tour of California and Colorado Classic. In 2021 she finally got to check out that “gravel thing” and enjoyed a number of podiums at events like SBTGRVL, Unbound, and a few wins like BWR Utah and Co2uT. Off the bike, she operates her business Bike Sports, which hosts FoCo Fondo, Gravel Graceland Experiences, a Fit Studio, and more. Bike Sports seeks to create a funky, inclusive environment of the limit-pushing fun a bike can offer. Learn more at bikesportsco.com.
It’s great to be a woman in the cycling world today. It is better than the past, but not as good as the future. A friend recently shared this article, When Women Don’t Speak, on new research looking at when and how women speak and what it actually takes for us to be heard. It’s both ugly and motivating. It really stirs up a lot of feelings, both from my own experiences on the receiving end, and my own shortcomings. Alas, we’re all works in progress.
Cycling offers women a unique opportunity to demand to be heard. Cycling is confidence-building: showing up for yourself, the accomplishment of the ride powered by our own bodies, the guts to show up in an environment where we are often outnumbered, and the pure joy of riding a bike. It’s bold and confidence-boosting in itself and that is before that bonus confidence advances our work, family, and friend life. We can rewrite the stories we have for ourselves, via the power of the bike. How can we use this extra confidence to continue to shape the world?
It’s really vulnerable to speak up and continue to ask the world to keep stepping towards equity and there will be push back, and probably internet trolls…definitely trolls. If we don’t ask or demand for more, how can we expect there to be change? In 2013, at the ripe old age of 25, I was a neo-pro on Colavita Women’s Pro Cycling team. My dream, coming to fruition. I also worked an 8-5pm office job, because women’s professional cycling in 2013. That summer, the Pro Challenge, a multi-day men’s road cycling stage race, was coming to Colorado with one stage going through Fort Collins, CO, where I live. No women’s race was offered and there weren’t plans to add one. The race was unique in that it also depended on the local community to host a lot of aspects about the race. I garnered support from the community to host a women’s pro race at the finish line of the men’s race, complete with a $10,000 prize purse. Women showed up to race and people showed up to watch. It was incredibly symbolic and meaningful at the time, showcased our overall absence, and had a lasting impact. For the years to come, they added a women’s stage race. And now, hopefully, Colorado Classic will come back again as a women’s stage race.
I feel like for the last two years, there has been a huge shift for women in cycling. The pandemic and bike boom played a huge roll in this. A part of this, I personally believe, is that with the growth of gravel women have more opportunity to slide on a scale between riding for accomplishment and fun, and competition, all while being at the same event. It brings us together in a new way and gives us a shared experience, across a wider range of abilities, bodies, and interests. Now, more than ever, there are more grassroots organizations where women are lifting each other up, women event directors (hi Amy, Kristi, Jess, and, oh wait, me! And this just from events I attended in 2021), salary minimums for UCI Women’s World Tour Teams, more research on female athletes, brand representation, and more.
They say to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and I couldn’t agree more. There are infinite examples of women, who, when finding their own success, reach their arms out and lift up many with them. I draw a lot of inspiration from the women around me, at the community and national level. It gives me the confidence to use my own voice, time, and leverage as a woman athlete and business owner in the cycling world to continue to nudge the world to being a better space for us all. The future is bright, let’s make it shine