Issue of male domestiques in women's gravel races

LOL at the SBT GRVL IG story response.

I made my opinion clear in the other DK thread, but I find it ridiculous for SBT to suggest it’s for the riders to sort out…

Separate the fields for fucks sake.


She’s saying that she had as much help as any of the other top 5 women, and some of whom who are criticizing her, Whitney included, were helped by her own teammate. Apparently, some of them were towed along by Cinch men riders at Unbound as well, but are being picky about their arguments.

The last thing was Colin Strickland’s op-ed put a bunch of these “unwritten rules” out there which many, including her detractors, are hanging their hat on.


IIRC, I’ve seen you post similar things in a past thread… Can I ask what your stake in all this is and why it is such an important issue for you? You’re mentioning it holds back women and POC? (I’m not a woman myself, but def. am a POC).


Just a crit / road racer who is looking to get into gravel racing next year as many of my friends have.

I have a background in motorsports, so it’s more about being completely exasperated at what would be a non-issue anywhere else (unwritten vs. written rules). This stuff would get you laughed out of a paddock in those circles. Telling a steward that a competitor violated an “unwritten rule” would be met with laughter. And said “unwritten rule” was created by a fellow competitor who you beat.

Just not sure why it’s so hard to just write some rules. It’s Gravel RACING not Gravel Group Ride.

Not a poc or women, so fair, I can’t speak to that, but “old guard” just leaves a sour taste in my mouth, see places like Whimbeldon in tennis


I’m not sure that would work. It’s not the pro men you have to worry about, it’s the tier below, and they’d come through from the general start.


I don’t like it personally, but if there’s no actual rule in place I think the responsibility is ultimately on the race organizers, and I don’t find it particularly constructive to go after one specific person.
I’m not sure I really agree with framing it as a women’s issue either- I suspect there were probably a lot of other people sitting on the wheels of stronger riders regardless of their individual circumstances, and whether you’re opposed to that ultimately comes down to the nature of the event itself. (Also, at the risk of getting a little sanctimonious, being vocally opposed to women drafting but not men further back in the field because it’s implicitly assumed that the former is the weaker of the pair is neither true in all cases nor something I’m particularly stoked on.)


I love how there’s already ‘unwritten rules’ in what is relatively a new discipline. :laughing:
It seems to me that people like to refer to / create these rules when it works in their favour.
It was funny listening to a podcast recently where an ex world tour rider was telling others how they should race and pull their turns because it’s part of the unwritten rules…well who decided that was one of the rules. If I was racing a WT rider then I certainly wouldn’t be blowing a gasket just to help them win the race and destroy my own chances :rofl:


I like her response. Basically saying to suck it up and she refuses to apologize for not breaking the rules.

It reminds me of once when a racer was mad he was boxed in (by me) during a sprint that I won. Positioning is part of sprinting, sorry you had bad position?

I agree that the rules need to change, but then there needs to be two races and that’s $ (Good luck with your ‘honor code’ idea). Probably unlikely the woman’s race would make it from a race organizer perspective. Monitoring women from drafting males on a mass start all gender race is impractical and just dumb since some roads wouldn’t allow for it (it would be like long course triathlon). It would also make the race much more expensive to run


I think thats the whole sentiment from the VeloNews article. It cites unnamed competitors who were unhappy about the “team tactics.” Then Whitney and others (but Whit went hardest I think) have mentioned it on IG.

If this is truly sour grapes, then that is a really unfortunate crap sandwich for Lauren to get stuck with. But I do hope that we’ve seen the last of this.

Or that it becomes a widely accepted practice and then my husband needs to up his training biiiig tiiiime :joy:


The ‘women’s’ issue about it is that in a dual gender mass start, the lead men will (almost) always be ahead of the women’s. So the lead women should nearly always have a draft available further up the road. It’s just the reality of the dual gender mass start, not that women are asking for it or anything like that

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I can definetly agree with that, but from the original post and some of the subsequent replies it seemed like the topic was extended to include women drafting men in a more general sense, which I think is a bit less clear-cut- especially when you come to the less competitive portion of the field where the performance differential is going to be much broader with more overlap between genders.

Which I think is one of the issues with the idea of ‘unwritten rules’- it’s easy to get bogged down considering individual performances and trying to apply them to an entire field, and a lot more objective to simply state whether something is legal or not.


As the importance of these races grow, I see a need for them to become more road-like in nature. Bummer, but that’s how it goes. When I say separate the fields I mean like different parts of the day or different days entirely so there’s no possible way for the fields to bleed into one another.


Folks accept that team tactics become very necessary for success at the pointy end of these races.

Seems to me that the problem comes down to the courses, the less elevation and technical areas on course, the more these start feeling like road races. Of course folks are going to draft on long flat sections of roads. I can’t imagine being in a pace line and having to keep track of who’s wheel I’m sucking and if I’m breaking any rules or not. Promoters should have to include at least 10% single track on their gravel events. Problem solved. :wink:


I’m looking forward to this “unwritten rules” conversation blowing up again when Alex Howes and Lachlan Morton race Unbound next year (they already announced it) and team TT it.

And I thought #critbeef was overblown.


Ok fair comment, but I do think the focus on the women’s race is important here, if this becomes the norm it could mean more men taking over opportunities that women should be getting so I think that is why that focus is there.

I appreciate there’s some tongue in cheek to your comment, but that is pretty different and unlikely since they aren’t strong enough to ride away from the race like that.

Now, if they sat up, picked up a female rider, then TT’d her away from the women’s field… Then we’d have a cacophony of complaints :rofl:

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How about if Tiffany Cromwell pulls Valtteri to a Blue win? :rofl:

I half joke because she probably could.


I somewhat agree, but I think there’s some real appeal to these mass start races. I would be nervous of blowing up, but I can definitely see the appeal in tucking into the pro peleton, just to see what it was like.

I think there two options, just say that it’s expected that men will help some women and that there’s an inherent unfairness based on opportunity. Or, make it a rule that women can’t accept assistance from men, whether that includes drafting or not depends on the desire to referee the race.

I don’t think it’s feasible to forbid any drafting of male athletes, but I still don’t think it’s fair. My issue is with planned assistance (as per Ironman issues), but no idea how to reasonably prevent that without separating the fields (which I’m not for on these super long days).

To be fair, he could pay Peter Sagan (pick your favourite strong man, I just thought he was a Mercedes athlete) to tow him to victory based on how much he earns :rofl:.

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Great idea employed by Cinch and Lauren.

If I were fit enough to assist my wife in this way, you can bet your bottom dollar I’d be doing it to the greatest extent possible, until it was banned explicitly.

If this is a direct quote from the rider guide,

One of SBT GRVL’s core values is fairness, and that ap-
plies to our aid stations! As all of you know, there is
NO outside assistance allowed, and that includes re-
ceiving food or drink from anyone besides our volun-
teers in the aid stations.

then I’d have emailed the director beforehand and asked if “outside” means “outside the participants of the race” or “outside oneself and the race volunteers.” And I’d have asked if it was okay for male participants to give female participants water or if “food or drink” included or excluded plain water, on course.

When attempting to be at the bleeding edge of the rulebook, it’s generally a good idea to just email the race director and get it in writing that you’re cleared to do whatever thing you’re cleared for. Done it more than a few times.

I’ve been amazed that in virtually all cases, directors are like “yeah go for it!”

Get on it!

Does your husband need a slow-husband friend? :wave: