Let’s put today’s historical cyclocross race of the junior women into context. Back in May, I had an eleven hour flight to LA and as I had a plug socket under my seat, I decided I would work for a few hours. This work consisted of mostly going through old galleries and check that everything is properly categorised and keyworded.
In the 2012 Superprestige gallery from Gieten, a rider caught my eye – it was Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado. Back in 2012, I had no idea who she was, so the photo wasn’t keyworded. I quickly sorted that out, but something struck me: if she was racing in the 17/18 season among the U23 riders, she must have been really-really young back in 2012.
This photo came to my mind this morning, while the junior women’s race was on. Alvarado was a fourteen year old kid at the time, racing against then-five time World Champion Marianne Vos or British National Champ Helen Wyman or many other, elite athletes. Nonetheless, Alvarado did quite well, she wasn’t lapped, but she finished eight minutes down on the winner. There a few other riders on the results sheet, who’s name we are bit more familiar these days, like Fleur Nagengast or Karlijn Swinkels, who later became the junior ITT World Champion (click here to check out the result sheet).
Due to the lack of opportunity to race against their peers, these riders and many more have to race against elite riders in their prime. They struggle week after week, they have to survive being lapped almost all the time, they never get to race at the front, etc. They experience very little success for a long, long time – unlike the boys, who race against their peers through their careers. Alvarado and the others have worked hard and they have soldiered on for years, until they matured enough to take on the likes of Vos or Wyman. But one cannot help to ask: how many riders have fallen by the wayside? How many riders called it quits? For how many riders was it untenable to carry on racing because of the difficulties?
That is why it feels today’s race was a very important step, even though it was a one-off occasion and it’s likely the next time we’ll see a dedicated women’s junior race is the Worlds in 2020. Oh, and I almost forgot it: thanks Helen Wyman and Golazo for making this happen!