Hannah Noel Undeterred By Sexist, Offensive Photo Caption
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Hannah Noel hopped on a bike less than a year ago with the intention to get active and lose a little weight. She did both. The 35-year-old U.K. woman also fell head over chamois for the sport. “It seems to have totally consumed my life,” she says of the time spent on her Liv Envie. “I just can’t get enough of it.”
But her newly beloved sport recently consumed her life in a different, less positive way. Late last month, the British magazine Cycling Weekly ran a feature intended to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Noel’s bike club, Hinckley Cycle Racing Club in Leicester, England. A photo of Noel appeared with the story. Directly above her smiling face, however, was this caption: “Token attractive woman.”
The Internet, justifiably, exploded with outrage. Noel? She says she was “gutted” by the dismissive, derogatory blurb.
Cycling Weekly apologized via a statement from editor Simon Richardson, calling the incident the result of a junior staffer writing an “idiotic caption” that nobody caught in the rush to send the issue to press.
“The caption is neither funny nor representative of the way we feel or approach our work,” Richardson wrote. “We would like to apologize unreservedly to the rider in the photograph, the Hinckley CRC and all our readers. This appalling lack of judgment by an individual is just that, and not a reflection of the CW office.”
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While some felt the editorial slip was emblematic of deeper issues of sexism in the cycling, Noel tells Bicycling her experiences in the real cycling world—which include club rides, time trial races, and sportifs—have been nothing but positive.
“I can honestly say that I have not experienced any ill feeling toward myself as a cyclist until the unfortunate comment,” she says. “I have only ever had positive encouragement and praise for my cycling and I’ve always felt accepted and capable to ride with male cyclists.”
In fact, she finds the notion that women are “tokens” in cycling pretty ludicrous. “We have a large number of female cyclists in multiple disciplines in the club and to say I was a ‘token’ was insulting, not just to me but to other female members of our club,” Noel says.
Not one to dwell on the negative, Noel has put the incident behind her like another bump in the road. “This has in no way spoiled my love of cycling,” she says. “I shall continue to ride with HCRC as often as I can. I am hoping to continue to improve my fitness, my stamina, and my ability to climb hills.” (Learn the skills you need to get fit by reading Bicycling magazine’s Century Training Program.)
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