Katie Archibald on inaugural Women's Tour of Scotland: 'We don't have to mimic male model to create successful sporting platforms'

Molly McElwee
The Telegraph
Olympic and World champion track cyclist Katie Archibald will be leading out Team Scotland for the three stage event - Sportsfile
Olympic and World champion track cyclist Katie Archibald will be leading out Team Scotland for the three stage event - Sportsfile

As sports go, cycling is not one you would describe as especially 'woke' or socially conscious when it comes to gender equality. With road cycling's most prestigious race, the Tour de France, still offering no sign of making strides to create an equivalent female race, instead offering the one-day 'La Course', it has not got the best reputation of keeping pace with the times. 

But the inaugural Women's Tour of Scotland, which begins on Friday, is making every effort to make its name as a progressive stop on the UCI calendar. As the first race in road cycling to have a women's version before a men's and in becoming the first race to offer women equal prize money to that of identical men's formats from the get-go, they have gone about it in just the right way so far. 

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Olympic and World champion track cyclist Katie Archibald will be leading out Team Scotland for the three stage event, as they vie to become the first champions of the tour against 16 other world leading teams, including their Team GB teammates. Speaking on Thursday, Archibald said that the groundbreaking approach should show women's cycling - and sport as a whole - that paving their own way can be just as important as achieving parity in men's equivalent events. 

"I think what this is a good example of is that mimicking the system set up for men, whether that's in bike racing or otherwise, in my opinion is not the best way," she said. 

"Scotland is running the tour as a women's event that isn't mimicking a men's event. I think likewise in sport more widely, we don't just have to mimic the male model to create successful sporting platforms, because there are faults in events like the Tour de France or otherwise. 

"I think there is strength in events like this that continue to see women's sport grow in force."

The €50,400 (£46,500) total prize fund is the only copy-cat move from the Tour, and Scottish Cycling CEO Craig Burn said that decision was made by organisers because it was the "right thing to do". 

"As well as growing the profile of cycling in Scotland and trying to get more people to get on a bike, the women’s side was quite deliberate," he said. "We were quite realistic about the pressure on the UCI racing calendar, and actually strategically it was more feasible to secure a women’s race. 

"But I think there’s a gender imbalance in our sport. Internationally women’s sport has become more and more attractive, where in cycling it’s been dominated by men in general. It was the right thing to do, as well as equal prize money.

"For every mile we want to get new women and girls on bikes and can we get more female leaders in the sport at all levels, coaching or governance of clubs at grassroots."

The Tour is also striving to become the world's first climate positive sporting event, with organisers aiming to achieve such a feat by next year's event. For Burn though, that Scotland will be hosting such a major event for years to come, ahead of the multi-discipline inaugural World Cycling Championships in 2023, is the biggest takeaway from this development.

"This is about an annual event. World Cups and World Championships come and go, but if we’ve got a UCI event on our soil every year it’s something we can hopefully build our talent programmes around, gives Scots the opportunity to compete at home, and also get the youth something to aspire to."

The tour's first stage begins today in Dundee and finishes in Dunfermline this afternoon, before the second stage from Glasgow through to Perth takes place tomorrow. The 217-mile tour comes to its climax on Sunday, where the riders will begin in Edinburgh, ride south through the Scottish Borders and return to conclude in Holyrood Park back in the capital. 

A crowd of 100,000 is expected this weekend and Archibald, 25, reiterated the importance of the event taking place in her own backyard, on roads and routes she cycled as a child growing up in Milngavie, outside of Glasgow, to inspire the next generation.

"When you're a kid and you're watching stuff on the television it becomes this other world for other people that you can't quite believe. When you bring an event like this to your doorstep you realise these are people just like you," she said. 

"I know from my own perspective I used to glorify people on the telly and assume you aren't like them. It is important for whatever towns this goes through, especially as it falls into this the wider conversation about sport in Scotland at the moment. 

"We've got the Glasgow World Cup at the Velodrome in November, we had the European [Championships] as a multi-sport event last summer, the Solheim Cup we're hosting [at Gleneagles in September]. All these major sporting events going on through Scotland prove that all these lines about being a sporting nation, they're not cliches - they're true. It feels nice to be part of another element of that."

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