- by Laura Robinson

I started training for this year's Lake Huron Gran Fondo in March. The two previously hosted by our community were a summer highlight. Just so you know how important cycling is for us, my partner gave me a new racing bike as an engagement ring. I did my first time trial at age 14, was a three-times Ontario champion, and was on the national team. While those days were decades ago, more recently, I coached students from the elementary school of Chippewa of Nawash to podium finishes at the Ontario Elementary School Mt. Bike Championships. At the first Gran Fondo, children were given my book, Cyclist BikeList: The Book for Every Rider. In the intro I write about how much I liked riding faster than boys. It received the silver medal at the American Library Congress for Book of the Year, non-fiction for Young Adults.

This year I will definitely not attend because of the incredibly sexist Lake Huron Gran Fondo promo video. One white male (such an underrepresented group) rides alone while an authoritative male narrator describes his personal heroic quests, which leads him to a house where "new beginnings" are happening. It appears both the young woman and the female toddler with her in the house have nothing better to do than wait for this man's arrival. Neither are on bikes, both are inside (where the adult female stays with her loving smile), while the toddler dashes into either grandfather or father's arms. Is the young woman his daughter or latest wife? The "new beginnings" line suggests the latter. No matter what, the only females in the promo are nothing but adjectives describing the greatness (to them anyway) of the main subject matter: A white male. In addition to the blatant sexism, none of this speaks in any way to the First Nation young people I coached.


Since the 1970's I have worked for equality in women's cycling--to get us into the Olympics and other international events, to ensure Olympic events are equitable for women and to ensure that the culture of sport, that includes preying upon female athletes, is addressed at the international and legislative level. Most recently I have worked with others internationally to evacuate female cyclists from Afghanistan and settle them in democratic countries. Cycling Canada, (our National over Sport Organization for cycling), the Union Cycliste Internationale ( UCI: the international body), the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and others committed to the equality of women athletes have moved mountains so young female Afghan cyclists can realize their rights as athletes and human-beings in democracies.

Unfortunately, I will now be able to use the Lake Huron Gran Fondo promo video to show these young women there is still much work to be least in Saugeen Shores.

images: The photo is Laura Robinson and another female racer in the War on the Shore race in Southampton, where she was, by far, the oldest rider. The second picture is Robinson covering cycling at the Olympics with the legendary cycling commentator Phil Liggett. Six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes is covering in the background. 




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