Beauty and Power: Pro Women at Emakumeen Bira
Dispatches from Bilbao, Spain where I am on a secret mission assignment for Peloton Magazine.
The women of the pro-tour are a force to behold. A peloton stacked with power and grace, realized in the form of hundreds of tiny, muscle-laden bodies. Together they move elegantly, camouflaging the leg-ripping at hand so that it almost seems easy. Except you’ve pre-ridden the stage so you know better.
We love and hate our bodies in alternating bursts and I’m sure these women are no exception but at the end of the day they are a study in perfection of the athletic form without compromising our habit of self-adornment. They care how they look when they are dying on the bike although ultimately it will be the strength of their character (and their shiny gams) that will make the difference. When I think of legs, I will forever think of these:
Everyone wants to talk about sensible skorts or cute dresses that are perfect for riding city bikes, but I’m more taken with the slick and shimmer of the pros. Their punchy spandex bravado feels like runway fashion: out of reach but somehow aspirational. If we can translate even just a little of it into our daily training rides, we’re lucky. The Euro sensibility connotes a kind of unapologetic showmanship.
One look at the starting line reveals the pageantry of the sport. I once heard cycling kits referred to as costumes and the description is spot on. Colors heaped on colors with consideration for proportion, accessories and overall presentation. Among the trends in Durango at the Emakumeen Bira stage race today: purple and mint green bar tape to match team colors, tall dark socks with white shoes, custom kit-matching decals on deep-dish wheels, diamond earrings and Scandinavian fresh good looks.
When the race starts, all the shiny shit is out the door and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg wants to win. I know because I sat next to her at dinner the night before. We talked about her inner castle (don’t ask) and the profiles of upcoming stages. Today’s stage is for the sprinters.
As the race approaches the finish, Spanish electronica blares from the speakers and locals come out onto their balconies to watch the show. The lead caravan cars roll across the line delivering officials, media and photographers.We strain over the barriers to see who will come flying under the banner but when they arrive, Ina isn’t the one raising her arms.
Marianne Vos wins. Again.
Teutenberg is close. Which is the worst place she can imagine. Not winning is losing – that’s clear as she rolls by us after the finish. I admire her uncompromising aggression and unrelenting competitive nature. She swears under her breath as a few fans cheer while she passes.
There’s nothing to cheer for here. This is sport, not recreation. No consolation prize, no participation pride. You put on your tiny shiny suit and ride to win. When you don’t, you get fucking pissed off.
This is business.