Something kind of awesome happens when women come together, especially in London. Like when the Women’s March echoed a chorus of ‘love trumps hate’ and ‘girls just wanna have fundamental rights’ around the world, just a few months ago. We are a strong unit, paving a powerful path of positivity in a world that can sometimes be scary, confusing and sad.
After a couple of months that witnessed horrible events in London, last weekend’s Women’s Tour was a welcome ray of sunshine (literally, I have the sunburn marks to prove it). Because there is absolutely nothing negative you can say about cycling. OK, so you get a sweaty fringe and a sore bum sometimes, but it’s always worth it. It keeps our bodies and minds healthy, it helps make the world a greener place and it brings people together.
The OVO Energy Women’s Tour is the UK’s biggest professional women’s cycle race and part of the UCI Women’s World Tour. The final stage of the five-day event took place in London for the first time, following a 6km route that was used in last year’s Tour of Britain. It covered iconic landmarks such as Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Strand and Whitehall – a tourist’s dream.
Although Jolien D’hoore was first to sprint over the finish line on Regent Street, it was Katarzyna Niewiadoma who claimed overall victory, overtaking Olympic Champion Anna van der Breggen in the UCI Women’s World Tour. GB favourite Hannah Barnes came second in the final stage, giving her overall third place. And Christine Majerus was third to cross the finish line on Regent Street, resulting in overall second place.
The day started with a Celebration of Cycling parade, which saw 100 of London’s everyday female cyclists pedal their way around an opening lap. I was invited to take part in the parade by TfL, along with other representatives of London boroughs, charity groups and cycling communities. The range of bikes on display was impressive, from taxi bikes to running bikes and wheelchair hand bikes. My Dutch bicycle seemed mediocre in comparison. One woman even brought her penny farthing along. Don’t believe me? Look!
Mayor of London Sadiq khan was cheering on cyclists at the start line, because he is an absolute dude. I think we might have had eye contact. Not that I have a weird crush on him or anything. The lap itself was an enjoyable cruise – it’s always a weird but wonderful experience when London closes its streets to motor vehicles. The crowds were starting to gather and take photographs, probably mistaking me for Victoria Pendleton because I’ve recently started using Pantenne shampoo.
Next up, the Pink Ribbon Tour took place in aid of the Breast Cancer Care charity. Over 800 women cycled 25km to celebrate 25 years of the pink ribbon, the recognised symbol for breast cancer. Olympic gold medallist and Breast Cancer Care Ambassador Denise Lewis OBE, took part in the event after losing her grandmother to the disease.
The main event took place at 3:30 pm, with some of the best riders in the world completing 14 laps. The results also saw Hannah Barnes receive the Adnams Best British Rider Jersey, at the end of a week-long battle with her younger sister Alice, and coming 18-months on from a prolonged injury lay-off with a broken leg. And Audrey Cordon-Ragot won the SKODA Queen of the Mountains climb while Team Sunweb took the Team Classification, with their rider Lucinda Brand claiming the week’s combativity prize.
From the young girls in pink tutus doing their bit for charity, to the champs on a mission to retain their titles – it was a day for cycling in the face of fear, whatever form it manifests. Cycling gives us freedom, strength and friendship. Nothing can challenge those, especially if we carry on growing our cycling community in London. Only 13% of women in London cycle, but hopefully some of those watching at the side-lines will have been inspired to hop on a Boris bike on their way home.
London is open, so get out there on your bike and join the only #girlsquad worth being part of.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.