A few years ago, I was on a plane heading to a bike race.
An elderly couple sat next to me. The husband asked what I did. I told him I competed in cycling races against other women. The husband relayed this to his wife, sitting on the opposite side of him. I watched her expression go blank, as she tilted her head to the side and asked "They have that?"
Yes, we have women's cycling races. I suppressed the urge to tell her, "We can vote, too." Instead, what followed was a terrific conversation about women's bike racing. The couple was fascinated and asked how, when and where could they watch the sport on TV.
"Ah," I explained, "well, we're working on that."
When the partnership between the Colavita professional women's cycling team and espnW came together last month, I couldn't have been happier. After all, cycling is my sport. I know it inside out, backward and forward. It's what I do and who I am; and when I'm not riding my bike, I'm usually talking to people about riding a bike.
Cycling has everything a sports fan could want -- speed, tactics, strength, passion, drama, and muscular women in Lycra. The only problem? Not many people in the United States are informed about women's cycling. Yet.
When it comes to women's sports, we could spend hours debating the chicken-and-egg scenario of "Which came first, the fan base or the media exposure?" Perhaps instead of debating, it's time to take action and grow the fan base and media exposure together.
Every month on espnW, readers who are new to cycling and others who are seasoned fans can look forward to two installments of Riding with the Pros. One will follow our Colavita adventures; the other will highlight riders, teams and issues pertinent to our sport. The goal is to educate and entertain, and perhaps make women's cycling more mainstream by series' end. It may take years to get there, but the start is now.
Some day, I believe there will be an old woman sitting next to me on a plane. She will look over and notice my sweet farmer's tan from my cycling jersey, and she will ask "Mountain, road or track, dear?"
So, let's start with meeting my fellow teammates who will lead us through the journey of women's cycling. I proudly present Team Colavita: