Issue of male domestiques in women's gravel races

So i know of one husband wife duo, that in 2019 the husband was the super domestic for her. She place top ten in SBT, and land Run. Apparently she never stopped at rest stops, he took her warmer clothing as the day warmed up and he pulled a bunch. I rode in a competitive Gran Fondo with them (timed segments) and he completely buried himself working for her (he is a cat 1 or 2)…super strong. They made sure the other women were not with them then he completely emptied himself. (It benefited me, because i figure out what they were doing). Its totally unfair, No female could compete with her having a husband with a ftp over 5w/kg. She won the fondo. She also sometimes write articles for a coaching company on how to be a good gravel racer…ha ha, never does she mention getting man to pull you around. Btw, she is strong, but this just gave her a unfair advantage. Hollow victories me thinks.


Didn’t she win DK / Unbound with her husband pulling her as well?

That’s the thing, all these women would kick any of our asses.

As for me, I’m not winning any of these, so if someone wants to skip the aid stations so they finish 350th instead of 370th, then by all means.

I think women working with men over the course of the race is fine if they just happen to end up together, but part of the appeal of gravel racing is that there’s no teams and everyone is out for themselves. So that kind of teamwork, male or female shouldn’t be allowed in these kind of events IMO


Were the chaps she teamed up with in the Unbound on her team?

If not, it seems fine to me. There are guys on the course, use them as you see fit.

Quite possible that they assumed she was weaker, so not able to pull at their pace and also not worth attacking.

But there are.

You don’t think Specialized wants their people working together so a Specialized bike wins?

No amount of retro paint jobs or edgy designed kits can hide that it is pro racing.



My husband rode the blue course last weekend and a lady grabbed his wheel. She yelled at him, something like “I don’t even have to pedal back here!” :grin:

That happened organically and she rocked that draft for as long as she could hold on. That kind of thing is totally fine.

I’m also realizing that I am not using my husband’s capabilities to my full advantage here :sunglasses:


Accepting “hand ups” from your male teammates does seem a bit unsporting even if it’s not strictly against the rules. I could see how in races with cash prizes that it would be perceived as cheating or at least unfair. The same goes for being towed around by male teammates all day. At that point, you’re just running a WT team with support cars and domestiques, and I think people want to keep gravel as an individual pursuit.


I think these racers exploiting loopholes in the rules have once again killed the spirit of competition.
Gravel was cool and fun. Now it’s being spoiled in the name of results and money.


Same! Mine can’t keep up with me on long rides so I’m going to show him this thread and tell him to up his game ha! :wink:


A friend of mine, Pro XC racer, did a local event and was pretty upset when the “winner” (also a national champion if it is who I remember) went on to brag about how fast she is while having her significant other tow her through the entire race. That was his job. Being a smaller local event it wasn’t really important, but you can tell that someone who worked the whole race didn’t really think it was fair since she told her boyfriend to go race his own race.

Do I think it is fair? Not really.

This is not new, MTB marathon racing has this “issue” for years. The less technical the course, the more an “issue”. Well, it’s usually not against the rules so what. It’s a mass start event. And I don’t buy into this noble warrior thing. Top pack can afford to be noble and just because gravel racing is still pretty niche. This will all change. Just look at MTB and how it developed. Exactly the same story.

While this male domestique thing is something that prevents me from appreciating fully the accomplishment, there have been times when male domestiques actually made history:


Yes, because it happens basically every single season. Teams legally “cheat” because they are the best motorsport engineers, data scientists, and lawyers on earth. They innovate, and yes, it is by and large considered genius, while also pretty blatantly violating the spirit of whatever rule they successfully worked around. Then every other team that didn’t innovative as well appeals the design or technology, the FIA makes a ruling and either it is outlawed, rule is rewritten, or it’s approved and everybody copies it. This is the peak of motorsport worldwide… Gravel was supposed to be the anti-pro everyman’s race, it’s hardly an F1.

From what I can gather, this team 100% followed the rules, albeit unsportingly IMO considering what gravel was supposed to be, and now gravel event organizers will have to respond to the appeals. This will be written out the events, or it will be approved, and you better believe that all the top women are going to be rolling up to the line with a phalanx of diesel bros.

Just nitpicking your example here - by and large I agree with your take. Ball is in the event organizer’s court - they can legitimize this sport or not. Hard to hold it against the participants though when they are technically following the rules.


All team sports, including cycling, have unwritten rules. And they have old-timers hanging around who keep track of infractions and encourage their enforcers to even the score.

These unwritten rules prevent little fouls from slippery-sloping their way to bigger, more dangerous fouls.

In baseball and hockey, they even the score with retaliatory fouls or with fights.

In basketball and football – where fighting and ‘dirty’ play is banned – the sports have degenerated into a morass of pedantic rules that would confuse a lawyer.

Written rules for gravel cycling are difficult to enforce because competitors spend most of the race unobserved. It’s not like a referee is following them around on the course. Are you supposed to take someone’s word that their arch-rival did something untoward and should be sanctioned?

So, the honor system is the only realistic way to keep people from developing such a degree of animus that they start taking things into their own hands. If there is a consensus about the ‘right’ way to use domestiques (and other aspects of racing), the only safe way to enforce these honor codes is by this public shaming. What’s the alternative? Fighting?

1 Like

Here is Lauren’s take:

It’s all is so petty and ridiculous.


Yeah, that’s completely bs. Again, that exactly turns into a popularity contest between those in the “old guard” and their lackeys vs. outsiders.

Exactly the kind of attitude that holds back women and POC’s.


I’m glad she’s had a chance to respond. I can’t remember where I read this but somewhere someone suggested that her teammates were there specifically to help her win, I think that was perhaps a bit of an overreaction, unless that came from a quote from one of her teammates.

This is a tough one, I agree with her that more conversations should be had on this topic, I think that is what is happening. I don’t think these conversations are ‘hateful’, perhaps there are some who are turning her team into the scapegoat, which is unnecessary but her win is bringing out important discussions, and if you’re going to win, unfortunately you will be the topic of discussion. I don’t agree that others wouldn’t have experienced the same push back.

I refuse to be subject to bullying and harassment on the internet for violation of some unwritten rules made up by a bunch of white dudes.

Not sure what the last part of this statement has to do with anything…


Colin Strickland’s op-ed which others have used as a pedestal to stand on

1 Like

I was promised that gravel was supposed to be cool and not like road racing.



I agree, first she said she didn’t get the help everyone is saying she did and now she is basically saying these unwritten rules made up by white dudes are useless. Which is it? Does she agree that this isn’t a team sport? Does she disagree? I’d love to know.