When they talk to you about cycling, who goes through your mind? A man with cycling glasses, helmet and tights, climbing a hill in the middle of a peloton, or a woman reaching the finish line, imposing, tired and happy?
We are pretty sure that names like Induráin evoke more than others like Jeannie Longo or Joane Somarriba. This may be due to the fact that cycling has always been understood as a men's sport, and it has taken many highly trained cyclists to change the course of this discipline.
In today's post we tell you the story of 10 female cyclists who have not only gone down in history for their achievements and medals, but also for turning cycling into a cry for equality and respect between men and women, they gave it a voice. and image to female cycling.
Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, commonly known as Annie Londonderry, has gone down in history for being, in addition to a great journalist, a woman with a strong adventurous spirit, who went down in history for going around the world on a bicycle.
Annie was born in 1870, in Latvia, and moved when she was still a child, to live in the United States with her family. Londonderry's childhood was uncomplicated compared to the prevailing quality of life at the time; He married, had four children, and helped support the family's finances by selling advertisements to local newspapers.
It was in 1894 when Annie's life changed completely, as two Boston businessmen challenged her, in exchange for $ 10, to go around the world by bicycle. The potential cyclist accepted the challenge, and on June 25, 85, she began pedaling from Massachusetts, equipped with a long skirt and a bicycle that had a poster attached to its back announcing "New Hampshire's Londonderry Lithia Spring Water", a company that paid Annie $ 100 to promote it.
15 months later, the newspaper New York Timespublished a story that followed the following headline: "Miss Annie Londonderry has arrived in New York after cycling around the world."
Tillie Anderson was born in 1875, in a world that still did not accept that women could pedal, run, or practice any type of sport, still understood as a solely male competition.
Anderson was born in Sweden, but developed his cycling career in the United States. During her adolescence she worked as a seamstress and was saving everything she had to buy her first bicycle. And he did. Characterized and known for being a determined person with a strong character, Tillie began, at the age of 18, to compete in cycling circuits, to win, and to break records that had not been surpassed until her arrival. Although he also excelled in other endurance sports and had very good times in foot races, his passion was cycling. He participated in more than 130 races throughout his life, crowning first place in all but seven of them.
Tillie was 20 years old when she was recognized as the best female cyclist in the world.
In 1896, Susan B Anthony, a leading woman in the field of the struggle for human rights, and known for the important role she played in the battle for women's suffrage, stated the following: “Let me tell you what I think about cycling. It has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world. Cycling gives women a feeling of freedom, of self-confidence. I support and get excited every time I see a woman pedaling on two wheels… I see the image of free and unlimited femininity. "
We talk about Hélène Dutrieu in this post for her relevant role as a cyclist in the history of sport, but the rest of this woman's resume is worth mentioning at best. Dutrieu was also a cycling champion, racing car driver, nurse and ambulance driver during the First World War. She was the second female aviator in history.
This icon of reference for all was born in 1877 in the Belgian city of Tournai. At the age of 14, he had to drop out of school and start earning a living, since his father was unemployed and financial needs were accumulating on them. At 15, when she gave up trying to find a job that suited her tastes, she decided to head down a new path, that of cycling competition, which was opening little by little towards female participation. It was then that you began to really be interested in this sport unknown to her to date, especially in speed races, where she turned out to stand out well above the rest. Her reputation began to grow and she soon broke through the barriers of Belgium and the world began to call her "the human arrow."
Among Hélène's most important prizes, we highlight the Hour Record (1895), the world track speed championship (1897) or the European Grand Prix (1898).
In addition, Dutrieu also approached the world of entertainment; Between competition and competition, he participated in different circuses and theaters, where he performed incredible stunts and jumps with his bicycle. Sometimes he also helped himself with a motorcycle or cars.
Hélène overcame the barriers of the impossible, and turned her life into a constant list of challenges achieved.
Alfonsina Strada also changed the history of women's cycling in 1924, when she competed, surrounded by men, in the “Giro d'Italia” cycling race.
It is not surprising that it became a reference and a symbol of freedom for the women of its time since, long before becoming known worldwide, Strada was already breaking records on pedals.
At the age of 10, he discovered the world of cycling, and felt that he was born to practice it. In 1911, she was already crowned first in the women's La Hora record, where she also made the best mark in history. In 1917 he decided to sign up to compete in the Giro de Lombardia, a race in which, until now, only men had participated. It was ranked 32nd. However, parallel to Strada's euphoria and happiness for giving a voice to female athletes and for seeing her work recognized, the organizers of cycling tournaments and competitions did not find it relevant that this woman was introduced so squarely in the world of cycling, which is why they strictly prohibited female participation in the championships. Therefore, the Giro d'Italia on 24 was beyond the reach of Alfonsina, who, competitive and fighter until the end of her days, promised herself that she would participate in the race.
Some of the organizers and sponsors of this world-famous event helped her to register, secretly, under the name Alfonsín Strada, and thus, under a male pseudonym, the cyclist was able to participate. Although his identity was discovered and he was disqualified from the race, Alfonsina decided not to abandon and reached the finish line unofficially. She became the first and only woman in history to participate in a Giro d'Italia.
The bicycle became an icon of the fight for equality, a flag that waved for the rights of women, and Alfonsina was the great and eternal bearer of its mast.
It was determination and not facility that led Beryl Burton to become a British legend of women's cycling and sport in general.
Far from wanting to stand out as a professional cyclist and fill his room with medals, which is curious because he eventually won more than a hundred national and international titles, Burton decided to train throughout his entire career as an amateur cyclist. He worked in the fields and on the farm, which allowed him to develop a strong body, and the rest of the time he invested in pedaling, reaching almost a thousand kilometers a week.
Burton stood out above the rest in the track and road categories, and although he did not have too many prizes or recognitions, we could say that his most outstanding achievement took place in the year 1967, when he won in an endurance race in which they competed men and women alike.
The cyclist always had the support of her family and her husband, who helped her to enroll in cycling clubs and answered any possible doubts that she might have regarding the mechanical aspects of the bicycle. Her perseverance, her competitive character, her skills on the wheels and her determination, made her, for 25 consecutive years, the best British cyclist in history.
One summer in 1984, Marianne Martin crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées, becoming the first woman to win the women's Tour de France.
Although this circuit had already made the attempt to create a route for female cyclists in 1955, it was not officially carried out until 1984.
Before turning to cycling, Martin was a runner, but due to a back injury, her running career came to an end to kick off a fruitful stage on wheels. The cyclist developed a pure passion for cycling, she liked to train, compete and win, and it took her few years, although loaded with effort, doctors, therapists and a lot of mental strength, to reach the highest level.
The 1984 Tour was beginning to warm up when Marianne decided that she had to participate, whatever it was, even if she still did not feel strong and recovered from her bodily injury and the severe anemia that she suffered every spring. However, Marianne began to train, in a smart way, with limits, with goals. The first big step to reach the competition was taken when her selection in the American team for the Women's Tour de France was confirmed.
Hard and conscious work together with the capacity for sacrifice, observation and knowing how to learn from others, led this American cyclist to win the first ever female Tour de France.
After meeting this challenge, Marianne gave up cycling, started a photography business, and replaced her bike with horses. Dreams are limitless, and the ability to make them come true, apparently, too.
Jeannie Longo is probably the best cyclist of all time. She was born in France in 1958 and found no rival to bring her down at any point in her career. Perhaps for this reason, the toughest opponent she encountered in her entire life was herself.
The cyclist tended on many occasions to break her own records, trying in fact, to surpass her own mark in the challenge of the hour for 15 times, all frustrated. Longo dedicated herself to breaking down the barriers that she had built herself, to overcome them and go beyond.
His 12 world titles, four Olympic medals, almost 40 medals between world championships and French championships, and three participations in 3 Tour de Francia, among many other awards that accumulate to her record, did not appease the cyclist who was sometimes even criticized for her strong character and her controversies with other runners and athletes.
Among his many interests, there were also, business world, material innovation and nutrition, and applied them to cycling and sports in general. In addition, he graduated from a university degree in mathematics and excelled in other competitions such as skiing.
His ambition had no limits and he continued competing until he was 53 years old. Unfortunately, she was involved in several doping cases that somewhat overshadowed her brilliant career.
We have special affection for this cyclist because she represented Spain in three Tour de France.
The Basque athlete was born in the town of Sopelana in 1972 and began to feel a passion for cycling thanks to her father, who enjoyed taking long walks near the sea on his bicycle and accompanied by his three daughters, one of them, Joane. . Before turning 10, Somarriba was already enrolled in a cycling club, and as a result of that moment, the cyclist began to stand out. In 1986 she was proclaimed champion of Euskadi, and the following year, of Spain.
In 1991 his career came to a standstill, at first definitively, when a surgical intervention, caused as a result of a herniated disc, completely paralyzed his body and he was informed that he would never return to the cycling world. But the mind is powerful and the will to live too, so, after a year of effort, rehabilitation and courage, Somarriba got back on his bike, and three years later he was awarded the prize of champion of Spain. To this, they were added consecutively, two triumphs at the Giro Donne and his debut in the Tour de France. After two consecutive defeats on the Tour, in 2000, he managed to cross the finish line with a gold medal as his reward.
In 2005, the cyclist considered it a good time to retire from professional life, as she had achieved her dreams. Once again, the acumen and the desire to excel paid off and made Joane the best Spanish cyclist of all time.
It must be very gratifying to hold an Olympic medal and a cycling world championship in the same year, right? Well, Nicole Cooke, a British cyclist, was proud to do it at the age of 25.
Like so many others, Cooke's dream was always to participate in the Tour de France and win an Olympic medal, and far from being left alone in a wish, and aware that his ambition exceeded the limits of comfort, he began to fight, at the age of 11, for getting what he wanted.
As her career as a professional cyclist progressed, she became the youngest woman to win the British National Championship in the road category, at the age of 16.
Nicole managed to cross off both the Tour and the Olympic medal from her list, not without having suffered and having learned to face defeat beforehand. After losing in the attempt on her debut at the Athens Olympics, the cyclist reached gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. When it comes to the Tour, Cooke was proclaimed the winner in 2006 and 2007.
The cyclist retired in 2013 from her professional career, and harshly criticized through the media that she disappeared, in 2009 the women's category of the Tour de France.
In 2021, after 12 years frozen, the Tour once again welcomes women on its roads.
This Dutch-born cyclist started racing at the young age of 8, and ten years later she was already a dedicated professional athlete. A cycling fan since she was a child, she began to dream and imagine herself competing in the famous Tour de France. The imagination became tangible and Marianne Vos began to work to reach further than anyone in the world of cycling.
He stood out in the modalities of track, road, mountain biking and cyclocross, acquiring at the age of 19, his first world title in the categories of Cross and Road. Her career promised and the cyclist did not disappoint: in 2008 she won an Olympic gold and continued to increase her record exponentially.
At the age of 25, Vos had already participated in five World Cross Championships, had been crowned world champion twice, Europe once, and enjoyed her well-deserved Olympic medals.
Although everything seemed like glory and happiness in Marianne's life, the athlete also suffered. The over-training, the media pressure and the intoxication of having achieved it all, plunged the cyclist into a void in which she felt overwhelmed and lost, and finally, plunged into a depression. After three years of rest, recovery and efforts to achieve the desired mental health, he got back on his bike, to compete, and to reach the podium.
Far from wanting to become a famous character, guided by what to say, how to say it and what aspect to present to the public, Vos became extremely involved in the task of making women's cycling visible, fighting for equality between men and women and not only in cycling, if not in all aspects of life and in opening doors, motivating and giving voice and power to all girls and women who wish to get on a bicycle and pedal.
After this journey through the stories, experiences and achievements of these 10 women, we hope that, if you like cycling, you will start practicing it today and, if it is not this sport but another that occupies your mind and your dreams, we encourage you to chase it. If a woman was able to go around the world on a bicycle in the XNUMXth century, does the impossible really exist?