Updated: Saturday, 25th November 2017 @ 8:08am

INTERVIEW: 'The best I've ever seen it' – Joanna Rowsell Shand encouraged by healthy state of GB women's cycling

INTERVIEW: 'The best I've ever seen it' – Joanna Rowsell Shand encouraged by healthy state of GB women's cycling

| By Fraser Smith

Two-time Olympic champion Joanna Rowsell Shand says that even though women’s cycling is in a great state more can still be done to tackle gender inequality.

Rowsell Shand, an ambassador for Sports Tours International, spoke to MM during an exclusive event to celebrate the launch of her new book Full Circle.

Now retired, the five-times world champion in the team and individual pursuit has seen a lot of changes in women’s cycling since she began 13 years ago.

“When I started there were very few girls or women in the sport in the UK,” the 28-year-old said last week in Manchester, with the city’s world-famous velodrome hosting the UCI Track World Cup this weekend.

“When I left there was a squad of eight girls that were aged under-21 all trying to get a place onto the senior team.

“That is a huge pool of talent to work from. There are plenty more that didn’t make the cut from that who will always still be trying.

“I think women’s cycling in the UK is in a really healthy place, the best I’ve ever seen it.”

Not originally from a cycling background, she was found through British Cycling's Apprentice Programme.

Even though there are problems in the sport it was obvious Rowsell Shand sees that the growth and reputation of women’s cycling in Britain can only get better.

Despite recent allegations of sexism from fellow female professionals such as 2015 road race world champion Lizzie Deignan and former junior national champion Jess Varnish, Rowsell Shand still remains positive.

“In terms of track cycling I think there is equal coverage to men,” said Rowsell Shand, who now works as a television commentator for Eurosport on La Course, the female version of the Tour De France.

“The TV coverage and the media coverage normally seems to be quite good.

“In terms of road cycling there is still a huge, huge disparity between men and women in terms of the racing exposure, the media exposure, the prize money,” she added on the subject of the new-look La Course – which received wide-spread criticism for both the length of the course – just 67km – and also its move from a prime-time spot on Sunday to the Saturday.

“That’s a huge debate.”

SUTTON AND SEXISM

Most of Rowsell Shand’s success was under British Cycling’s ex-technical director Shane Sutton at British Cycling – a man under fire for allegations of sexism.

Rowsell Shand remains adamant it was not present during her time.

“For me as a female athlete I genuinely never felt my medal was worth less than my male counterparts.

“I know that there are people who have come out to the media and said the opposite.

“But I know that a huge amount of investment went into our medal.”

Image courtesy of Joanna Rowsell Shand via Twitter, with thanks.