Photo ©ABC News: Shuba Krishnan
One of Australia’s top female cyclists, Tiffany Cromwell, who left the Adelaide Hills determined to chase her sporting dreams across Europe, says it will be a rare treat to compete at the Women’s Tour Down Under (TDU) in front of a home crowd.
The 28-year-old, who has represented Australia at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games as well as at world championships, said she had made a lot of sacrifices over the years.
“It’s very special to be racing at home, obviously in Adelaide, this is where my career started, where everything started for me,” she said.
“My family are pretty excited. They love to see me race, it’s fantastic that they don’t have to travel to see this one.”
About a decade ago, the ambitious athlete relocated to the south of France to further her cycling career.
“It takes a lot of sacrifice, a lot of determination, a lot of persistence, a little bit of luck as well,” Cromwell, who has won races on the highly competitive European circuits, said.
“I did start here in Adelaide, but the international circuit is mainly in Europe … so you have to effectively take your life from here and create a new life over there.
“You have to relocate, find new friends, build a support network, try and find teams, get yourself to the right performance level and then get noticed by teams and get contracts.”
Cromwell said professional cycling was a tough career path but also a rewarding one.
“I get to travel the world and to do something that I love and this is my life,” she said.
Race to raise women’s profile in sport
Cromwell races with top German team Canyon-SRAM and is the only Australian in the squad.
“The Santos Women’s Tour is the perfect race to not only raise my profile but women’s cycling in general … so outside of Europe I’d say that this is probably one of the biggest races you can come to,” she said.
This is just the third year the women’s event has been run, and only the second year it has had UCI status, meaning it is recognised on the international cycling circuit.
Women’s tour race director Kimberley Conte said the UCI ranking meant throngs of overseas teams would descend on South Australia to compete in the event.
“We have a record number of teams competing, 17 altogether, with 11 international and six really strong domestic teams,” she said.
“We even had to turn away teams, which is every race director’s dream and nightmare altogether … but what an honour to have that kind of interest in our race.”
Women not treated as equals at some events
Cromwell said while the sport was growing, there was still improvements needed to boost its profile and close gender gaps such as equal pay.
She said it was not uncommon for professional female road cyclists to juggle multiple jobs in order to ride and survive.
“You know in your early years, you’re barely making enough to be able to pay your rent or put food in your stomach,” she said.
Cromwell said some events still treated female cyclists as “middle-class or lower-class citizens” not offering the same quality support and resources as the equivalent men’s competitions.
“As female athletes you really do have to put a lot more effort in to build your own personal profile and your brand to try and get that recognition.”
She said while she and her peers had turned to social media as a platform to boost their profiles, more exposure was needed.
“TV coverage that’s the biggest thing, because TV is media, is marketing, is money.”
It is something track cycling world champion and TDU ambassador Anna Meares knows all too well.
“It’s not easy, my career was 22 years’ worth of building that profile and connection,” she said.
“I had one shot every four years at the Olympic Games to really utilise the profile, and the media that followed those Olympic sports to make a connection with people back home.
“That was the biggest thing for me, I had to be very successful for a very long period of time. And I’m very proud of that longevity and that high performance that I was able to do over that time.”
Meares thinks the gender divide is getting smaller but stressed the need for sponsors, management, teams, the media and the community to support female athletes.
“From my perspective on the track [the gender gap] it’s certainly closing, in 2009 and on the velodrome we had equal pay for world championship prize money and it was wonderful … and at Olympic level , we have an equal number of events.”
Stage one of the women’s tour starts on Saturday at Hahndorf, in the Adelaide Hills, while the men’s tour begins on Tuesday at Unley.
Original article can be found here.