Vélo Birmingham & Midlands, the UK’s second-biggest closed road sportive, has revealed an ambition to achieve a gender-balanced field by the time Birmingham hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
The target was announced by the event’s organiser CSM at the Cycle Show, which is taking place this week in the Midlands city.
CSM chair Lord Sebastian Coe joined Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward, ambassador Rebecca Charlton, a cycling commentator, and local cycling enthusiast, ex-England rugby captain Martin Johnson to make the commitment as part of a panel promoting the return of Vélo Birmingham & Midlands on Sunday May 12th next year.
The inaugural edition of the participation race attracted a sell-out field of more than 15,000 riders, but only 15% were women, CSM revealed.
Jon Ridgeon, executive chairman of CSM Active explained: “There is increasing momentum behind women’s cycling, but there is still work to be done to tackle gender disparity across the sport.
“Despite the sell-out success of Velo Birmingham & Midlands in 2017, we were not satisfied with the number of women who took part and as organisers we are determined to create an environment which is welcoming to all.
“We are working hard to understand what’s holding women back from entering sportive events and will do everything we can to try and accelerate change. Inspired by the Commonwealth Games, which is a beacon of gender equality, we have set an ambitious target of gender parity by 2022 and we are committed to achieving it.”
Rebecca Charlton, event ambassador and cycling presenter, said: “At a time when women’s cycling is attracting more women than ever, I’m excited to be working with Vélo Birmingham & Midlands to help inspire more women to take on the challenge of riding 100 miles on closed roads.
“Events like Vélo Birmingham & Midlands have an important role to play in making cycling accessible to a wider range of women by spreading the message that while 100 miles may sound like a long way, it’s very achievable. I’m looking forward to encouraging more women to sign up, get pedalling and join me on the start line next May.”
In support of the ambition, CSM has also revealed a package of measures designed to encourage female participation.
They include exclusive priority access for British Cycling’s female members; an allocation of places to be awarded through strategic partnerships; and the launch of a new ‘Women in Vélo’ campaign, identifying inspirational stories of female riders.
Emphasis will also be placed on work to better understand the barriers and motivators to women’s participation, alongside promotional activities and outreach delivered with the event’s regional authority and charity partners, which include Cure Leukaemia, NSPCC, Alzheimers Society and Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.
The 2019 race is set to feature a new 100-mile route, taking in both Coventry and Birmingham city centres. Over 40,000 pre-registrations have already been received.