We sat down with the CDC GT, our female trio of Gravel racers, to talk about women’s racing and community, and how it feels to be a female athlete in a traditionally male-focussed sport.

Do you think Gravel racing is an equaliser, a more level playing field?

Danielle: Gravel racing has a lower cost of entrance both in experience and resources compared to other cycling disciplines. You do not have to move up any ranks to compete with the top athletes. It only requires one bike, you do not need a team to enter either. Also, it combines endurance with bike handling – this is one of my favourite parts! It makes both skills important to compete at the top level and you cannot have one without the other.

Maria: Yes, I think that is one of the most fun things about the Gravel scene and the community, everybody has the same chance to ride the distance they like or want to challenge themselves in. It will always be different between genders in terms of results in the sport but that’s not what we are aiming for. Pros, amateurs, beginners – of any gender – are riding together with the different goals of the day, gravel is a cultural beauty.

Do you have any fun stories about beating men on the bike?

Maria: I have raced with and against men so many times in Iceland. One MTB race I started way too fast, totally not my day, and got dropped from the front group. I was so wasted trying to stay in the next group and was hanging with my head drooling on the stem. I heard the guys happily saying, “Hey we are strong today, Maria is in our group”. But my feeling is that men are no longer thinking about if they are beaten by a woman or not, I can feel a difference in the dynamic between genders the last couple of years.

Annabel: Of course there are many times when I have dropped men like stones on climbs, most recently in Girona when out for a training ride with Clémence [Marketing at Café du Cycliste] and Christophe [Head of Content]. Christophe (foolishly) upped the pace as we closed in on the summit of a col, and just as he reached a full gas effort, I attacked, never to be seen again, haha. 

What do you think the sport as a whole needs to do to keep growing women’s riding and racing?

Annabel: The introduction of a minimum wage for those women who are professional, allowing them to dedicate themselves to the sport, creating a higher standard of athletes. And for those who ride and race for fun, a huge push on content showing women of all sorts participating, paving the way for the thousands yet to follow.

Danielle: Yeah, racing against only women drastically changes the dynamics of a race and currently in the gravel scene a lot of smaller races haven’t adopted separate men and women’s starts. Also better coverage of women’s racing will help to build the sport; better so that it is equal to the men. In gravel specifically, having a separate men and women’s start will help improve coverage of just the women’s race.

Maria: Create a situation and platform for women to make connections with other women. When connections are made, groups begin to form and grow, most women are social animals and women grow courage when they are near other women, I have seen that happening thousand of times as a coach and event organiser.

You are the first Café du Cycliste racing team, do you think the brand is helping push the female narrative?

Annabel: I’ve never claimed to be a feminist or someone that stands up for the female narrative, because I simply don’t think it’s necessary. By highlighting discrepancies between any two features, be they discrepancies or not, divisions and inequalities are too easily formed. Women, quite frankly, are amazing. And men, despite their flaws, are equally as impressive, and each in their own way. What the Café du Cycliste race team and brand does, in my opinion, is to facilitate the hopes and dreams of each individual, and inspire others along the way.

Danielle: Yes. Hell yes. Supporting women’s racing helps support equality across all sports not just cycling. Women’s racing is exciting and with Café du Cycliste’s support, we are able to showcase that!

Any top tips to young female riders looking to get into racing?

Danielle: Cycling is about the long game, in racing and training. It’s a sport of attrition and depth in both athleticism and experience. Start now and keep at it. It only gets better.

Annabel: The most important thing is to enjoy yourself because there’s absolutely no point in putting yourself through the training, the arduous journeys, and making sacrifices if you don’t take immense pleasure from being on that start line and pushing every limit in your body and mind. Oh, and get good kit. It won’t change the result of a race, but it will make a difference to you. Café du Cycliste, DMT, POC and Lauf are highly recommended!

Maria: Yes, have fun above everything else. Don’t always totally stick to the plan, consistency is the key and respect the recovery both physically and mentally. And just ride!

In one word, #whatisgravel for women’s cycling?

Maria: Community.

Annabel: Powerful.

Danielle: Opportunity.