InternationalElles rider Alex Chart tells us her story…
Our Year 11 leavers book had the theme of the Mr Men and I was Little Miss Extreme Sports…. slightly ironically given I had been put in the “reject” PE class (i.e. those of us with no hand eye coordination the teachers simply couldn’t be bothered with). This was because I spent my holidays either skiing in winter or scuba diving in the summer (UK and abroad).
Little had anyone realised what was to come; 5 Ironman events, Half-Ironman’s, 14km river swims, World Championships road racing (amateur cyclists), Marathons, ever increasing distance cycling and now this… I was never the sporty type, and only knew of road cycling as that annual event where men cycled up mountains for 3 weeks in France. A few friends’ dads had gone out to ride a stage of the Tour de France here or there, but never a female was spoken about on a bike.
So, when I was asked if I wanted to be part of this epic adventure of the InternationElles I didn’t need to think twice. So much of my life has been in a “man’s world”. Studying maths at university the majority of students around me were male, working in corporate finance – again all male and cycling in my local club, which is 95% male. Every aspect of my life I have trodden a path that fights against the gender “norms”. I’m a stubborn, determined person and will never allow someone to tell me what I can or cannot do. Cycling is no different.
I’ve joined this team to help bring the gender imbalance in the sport I love to light and to force people to talk about it. The first step to equality is acknowledgement and discussion as to what the right thing to do is, this event can help that.
I’m terrified of the stages to come; the cobbles, the climbs, the descending, the weather, the saddle sore, the lack of sleep and the long journeys between stages. I’ve loved the training building up to this; structured, focused, with a purpose. Despite training as much as feasible, there is still so much unknown in what is to come.
Yet the one thing I know for certain is this needs to be done. We need to speak out and we need people to listen. We need to inspire the next generation to get on their bikes, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background. Everyone should experience the freedom cycling brings, whether it be to move around their local town or to race with the world’s best. Bring on those 21 stages and the voices to come out of it.