Elinor Barker: Welsh cyclist says sexism in cycling not 'blatantly obvious'

Elinor Barker

Olympic gold medallist Elinor Barker says there is “still a lot of sexism” within the sport of cycling, but it is not “blatantly obvious”.

The 22-year-old’s comments come after ex-cyclist Nicole Cooke said British Cycling was run “by men for men”.

Cooke, 33, made the claim to a Culture, Media and Sport select committee in Westminster on Tuesday.

However, Barker told BBC Radio Wales Sport that there has never been a better time to be a female cyclist.

“There’s still a lot of sexism in cycling today. It’s not always blatantly obvious like a pay gap or races not being put on,” Barker, who won gold for Team GB in the team pursuit in Rio, said.

“Times have changed a little bit since Nicole’s time.

“I can understand her frustrations but, as much as there is sexism in sport today, there’s not been a better time to be a female cyclist. I certainly can’t complain about the amount of support.

“There are so many more British female riders that can be full-time and don’t need to get jobs and hopefully that’s going to be on the rise.”

While giving evidence to the committee, Cooke answered “yes I do” when asked by MPs whether she thought sexism was culturally embedded in British Cycling.

The 2008 road race champion also said they did “nothing for the women” and that the body showed only “transient” support for female road riders.

Regarding Cooke’s accusations, British Cycling said in a statement: “There is always more that can be done and we strive to make continual improvements to ensure that cycling is reaching out to women and girls of all ages and abilities.”

‘It’s the subtle things that can be quite damaging’

Nicole Cooke

Barker says issues beneath the surface of Cooke’s accusations do need to be addressed.

“I think sometimes it’s the subtle things that can be quite damaging – the choice of music while the women are racing can often be quite trivial and it downgrades the racing a little bit,” Barker continued.

“When the men have got awesome rock theme tunes to their racing, it makes it more exciting and it draws the crowd in, whereas when the woman’s is on, there’s this sort of fluffy music and it doesn’t make the crowd that excited.

“There are different levels to it. Equality needs to be across it all rather than just focusing on the pay gap. It needs to be all these little things to raise the profile of women’s cycling.”

An independent review into British Cycling was set up after former technical director Shane Sutton was accused of using offensive and discriminatory language towards cyclist Jess Varnish.

Sutton was cleared of eight of the nine charges against him, but was found guilty of using sexist language. He denies any wrongdoing.

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BBC Sport – Cycling

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