Women cyclists distant second
THE message to women cyclists who want to make it onto the main stage at the Tour Down Under is that they would be wiser to perfect the art of puckering up than practising a real sport.
Every day during Australia's premier cycling event, which is attended by the world's most elite male cycling teams, wonderfully groomed women take to a stage somewhere to kiss and clap the winners.
To the layperson following the proceedings, this is where the obvious involvement of females in a week of world-class sport begins and ends. There is a women's race during the Tour Down Under, but it actually has nothing to do with the tour, other than the timing.
You may recall the women's race making headlines in 2011, only because a former national road champion, Amber Halliday, almost died after a horrific crash.
This year's Women's Cup, run by Cycling South Australia, began at 4.30pm on Sunday with a criterium that finished 90 minutes before the men began their 51-kilometre warm-up.
The 2013 Women's Cup is a three-day event, held in various city locations, and claims to involve Australia's best female road riders. Sadly, the billing is patently false.
What is true is that Australia's best female road riders are gathered not in Adelaide but in Canberra. It is also true that the women's race at the Tour Down Under has gone backwards this year, when it should have been streets ahead.
Twelve months ago, Australia's trail-blazing professional team was launched on the eve of the Tour Down Under as GreenEDGE. The new kid on the world tour scene made a point of launching its male and female outfits together, in the same place and at the same time.
Anyone who knows anything about cycling knows that while millionaires abound in the men's professional ranks, it is the rare woman who can make a living from the sport. GreenEDGE's male and female outfits were presented as equals. It was symbolic, and significant.
The female arm, then led by Germany's three-time world champion Judith Arndt, went on to dominate the Women's Cup in Adelaide. GreenEDGE's owner Gerry Ryan threw a dinner to celebrate the team's victory, saying: "Winning's fun, so keep having fun!"
The team was very successful last year and is aiming higher this year. It is especially telling, then, that not one of GreenEDGE's female riders is competing this year in Adelaide.
It's a fair bet that Adelaide's race, as it is this year, will never be the same. That, in itself, is progress.