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A Sad Day for Women\’s Cycling

August 3, 2005 – In a disappointing move by both Louis Garneau Sports and the Federation Quebecois des Sports Cyclistes (FQSC), the classic Trois-Rivières-Quebec race was unceremoniously cancelled on August 2 due to a “lack of registration”. The future of the event remains in peril as this recent cancellation reduces confidence that sufficient interest for a long-distance women’s classic exists in Quebec. But one can hardly assert that women in Eastern Canada are solely to blame for the race’s cancellation in light of the massive failure of publicity for the race.

The new 123km women-only race was to take place on Saturday August 6, the day before its male counterpart, the classic Montreal-Quebec. In previous years, women were allowed to take part in the men’s Montréal-Quebec, but were forced to stop at Trois-Rivières, the starting point for the now defunct race. The Trois-Rivières-Quebec race was to be a partial remedy for the inequality between the sexes regarding long-distance competitions on North American soil.

As noted lack of registration – only 11 pre-registered cyclists – is part of the problem and female cyclists in Eastern Canada need to shoulder some of the blame for not showing enough enthusiasm for an event that many Quebecois riders have fought for. On the flip side how you can sign up for a race you don’t know exists?

Lack of publicity plays a large role in the disappointing rider support. At the press conference for the men’s Montreal-Quebec race, the only information available about the women’s race was a single sheet in the Press Pack. In addition, a key opportunity was missed in the “guest invitations” department.

At the press conference for the men’s race Charles Dionne, Dominique Perras, and 1957 winner Jean Toulgoat were on hand. But not a single female representative was present as a spokesperson for the women’s race even though Lyne Bessette, one of Canada’s top female cyclists, is sponsored by Louis Garneau Sports, who organized the press conference and the race. And on top of that the FQSC also uses Bessette as a spokeperson to encourage cycling in the province. Not having her present to drum up support for this inaugural event certainly raises eyebrows.

The FQSC only began publicizing the event on its opening web page on July 26, a scant 10 days before the proposed race-date. While the race was listed in the Quebec provincial calendar, it’s understood that a new event needs ample time and visibility in the marketplace to secure sponsors, credibility, and most importantly participants.

It’s also curious why Cascade, who sponsor a Quebec women’s cycling team and was present at the press conference, did not use this an opportunity to encourage women’s registration for an event it was co-sponsoring.

Finally, simple bad timing can also be part of this failed exercise. The weekend of August 6 sees the opening of the 2005 Canada Summer Games, thus a majority of promising female espoirs riders are absent.

All told, the cancellation of the Trois-Rivières-Quebec is not simply a failure on the part of female cyclists, but rather an ensemble of missed opportunities by all parties involved. One can only hope that the cliché that any publicity is good publicity, holds true, and that the unfortunate news will serve to strengthen the resolve of female cyclists to solidly get behind this classic and ensure that it does take place in 2006.

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