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Riding in the Dark: How Can Women's Cycling Get the Profile It Deserves?

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After Marianne Vos and Lizzie Armitsteadt's exciting rerun of their epic Olympic road race showdown on the boards of the Manchester Velodrome last week (highlights of which are on ITV4), women's cycling is again enjoying a high profile in the UK.

Add in Sarah Storey's nomination for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the nationwide embracing of Laura Trott and outgoing queen of the track Victoria Pendleton's prime-time cameo on Strictly Come Dancing, and individual athletes are certainly getting their share of the spotlight.

But what about the state of their sport? The biggest stage race in women's cycling - the Giro d'Italia Femminile - has this week found itself without an organiser and so under very real threat for 2013. There is already no female equivalent of the Tour de France, a subject on which Vos has been particularly vocal of late. Throw in the recent demise of one of the sport's most successful teams following the withdrawal of their sponsor, AA Drinks, and things appear to be going backwards. And going backwards from a position of minimal visibility to begin with.

As the retiring world time trial champion Judith Arndt tells Cycling News HD in our latest issue: "The last 20 years, it has always felt like we're not worth as much. We get treated like we're two steps under. I've had that feeling my whole career and I don't want to have that any longer."

So what can be done to raise the profile of the women's sport? Crowds and enthralled TV audiences in London this summer saw how gripping the action can be, but outside of the Olympics and World Championships access to the women's sport is minimal. The governing body, the UCI, should certainly be doing more to get the sport the television coverage it needs to attract sponsors, but at the moment it is an institution beset with its own problems following the USADA evidence against Lance Armstrong and seems unable to take the lead on any issue.

So perhaps it is down to the race organisers, then. Peter Cossins argues in his column in the week's issue of Cycling News HD that one of the rival British bids to host the start of the Tour de France could do worse than turn their attention towards organising a high-profile women's event should they fail in their efforts. It is a tempting thought.

After all, Britain is a country in whose interests it would be to promote female cycling. We have a host of strong riders, are not hamstrung by the traditionalism entrenched in some of cycling's mainland European heartlands, and have an audience that has fallen for women's racing this year. If we don't capitalise now, that initiative could be lost.

Bradley Wiggins knows it, that's why the Tour de France champion has used his Wiggo Foundation to help fund the formation of the DTPC-Honda team that will be home to many of Britain's best racers and Italian former world champion Giorgia Bronzini next season. Who will step forward to join him in giving women's cycling the support it needs to emerge from the shadows?

• Exclusive interviews with women's world champions Marianne Vos and Judith Arndt appear in issue 32 of Cycling News HD, out now. Elsewhere in the issue we continue our review of the year looking back at the Limburg 2012 World Championships, with in-depth analysis and stunning photography of the key moments. Two-time silver medallist Taylor Phinney also speaks exclusively about his Worlds campaign.
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