We gave Sarah Connolly some award categories and she went one better with this one: Unsung Helpers. Here’s what it’s all about. While we’ve had more live women’s cycling to watch in 2016 than ever before, and it seems like the upwards trend will continue, women’s racing fans still rely on the internet, and especially on Twitter, to help us follow races. This category is for people I couldn’t watch races without, or who add a huge amount of value to what we get. There are hundreds more, so please note that anyone left out, it’s not because I don’t value them, it’s because I could go on forever here. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who helps me follow the racing, because I love them so much!
This Italian fan is a mainstay of the Il Nuevo Ciclismo forum, especially the women’s cycling board, and he’s the go-to man for information about all things Italian women’s racing. I love my conversations with him on twitter, and the information he provides – but most of all I love his YouTube channel, because if there’s a bit of racing been shown that I’ve missed, he’s my first port of call. I love everything he does, and fervently thank him in my mind every week!
Gilmore always had a fascinating career – one of the top sprinters, who also was running her own teams at UCI level and on the Australian domestic circuit for years. She owns Wiggle High5, one of the biggest squads, and while they’re racing you’ll find her live-tweeting updates from the team car, and funding great team videos that often have been the only clips we’ve seen of the racing. I love them because they’re not just focused on the wins, but also on the times when life is hard for the team.
But it’s not just her own team she’s good for – she also works hard to promote the sport for everyone. You’ll find her commentating the biggest races for various TV channels, including the BBC and Eurosport, where her insight into what it’s like to race at the very top level is phenomenal – and on top of that, she is part of the UCI women’s commission, working to improve the sport. I always wonder how she can fit it all in, but she’s a great example of “be the change you want to see”, and I’m inspired.
One of the things I love about the women’s side of cycling is the way fans have seen it wasn’t covered especially well by the mainstream media a few years ago, so decided to make their own coverage, and Felix Mattis is one of my very favourites. He’s a German cycling reporter who specialises in video interviews and highlights videos, which you’ll see this year on the UCI YouTube, as Mattis and another awesome guy, Niels Goudriaan, are the people behind the UCI’s WorldTour highlights videos. It is hard work, relying on clips from host broadcasters, with Mattis’ own interviews and clips added in, but they really help bring a narrative to the overall series.
On top of this, Mattis also funds himself to go to other races, and has superb interviews and clips, as he always asks excellent questions, and you can find these on his YouTube – I especially loved his work at the Worlds. He’s also got an excellent Twitter, which is a great source of information in its own right, and I’m always so grateful he’s involved with the sport.
The original and best race live tweeter, Richard Steege does absolutely invaluable work, giving us live updates from inside the Boels-Dolmans team car, around his day job as team mechanic. I can’t emphasise enough how important Steege is – for so many races, he’s all we have to go on for how the races unfold, and what’s happening. More media outlets use his work as the basis for their race reports and even their live tweeting than will ever admit it, but the women’s cycling obsessives all know where it comes from.
He’s been doing it for years, and while he has all the live-tweeting issues to deal with such as lack of signal, lack of information from the race radio (it’s a surprising thing to realise the first time you’re in a team car, but race radio doesn’t announce the winners!) and of course, making sure the Boels-Dolmans riders have the best equipment they can, he does it all for love of the sport, and it’s very much valued!
Peter van der Veen
If Richard Steege is a great race live tweeter, Peter van der Veen is one of the best commentweeters, adding tons of value, stats, information and viewpoint to information coming out of the races. We joke that he seems to have a telepathic link to what’s happening, and his knowledge of the peloton is first rate.
I love his twitter on race days, obviously, but he’s also a fantastic source of news, information, explanations and great retweets, and does fantastic work gathering information on who’s riding what, for the startlists on Cycling Fever. This may not seem like a big deal for fans of men’s races, but it’s vital in women’s races, where sometimes the definitive startlist is basically the first results. And I love his transfer table, keeping us up to speed with who’s racing where next season. If you have any women’s cycling questions, he’s definitely the one to go to.
If you’re looking at photos from women’s races on big cycling sites or team sites, and thinking “wow, that’s lovely”, chances are it’s Vélofocus. They’re Sean Robinson and Balint Hamvas, two guys who started as fans and turned making their own media into their careers. Sean started on road, Balint’s known for his fantastic cyclocross work, and they joined together to take over the world… at least in terms of photographing women’s races!
I love the new look they’ve brought to cycling photography, and especially the ‘backstage’ side of the sport, and the scenes of fans and roadside views. And of course, Sean’s twitter is great for race news, and comment. You can find their work on their site, Cyclingnews, Ella Cycling Tips and on the Vélofocus facebook, as well as lots more team and tech sites, and I recommend them highly.
Peter van der Veen took the honours, followed by Richard Steege, Felix Mattis, Rochelle Gilmore, Velofocus and Bidon Jack.