Anika Todd came to worldwide attention in 2013 when she finished second in Canada’s National Individual Time Trial Championships, just 20″ behind winner Joelle Numainville – but 19″ ahead of third-place Jasmin Glaesser (who is now her team mate). That wasn’t at a bad result at all, especially considering that she’d only been riding a bike for two years – and it earned her a professional contract, her first, with the legendary Tibco-To The Top.
Anika is on Twitter – we’re going to hear a lot more about her in the coming years, so give her a follow.
When and how did you first get into cycling?
I first got into cycling because of an ex-boyfriend. He was an avid cyclist and gave me my first road bike as a Christmas gift in 2012. I started riding a few times a month with him and a local club, Tripleshot Cycling. After a few months I was keeping up with the boys and Peter Lawless, now my coach, suggested I try racing. I began training in January 2013 and raced for the first time in April 2013. Following several first place finishes on the local racing circuit, Tripleshot Cycling raised enough money to send me to the Canadian National Championships where I finished second in the Time Trial and seventh in the Road Race. I then signed with Team TIBCO for 2014.
What do you love the most about the sport?
I love the freedom and excitement of the training and racing. There aren’t many sports where you can cover over 100km on an almost daily basis. Cycling has taken me all over the world and over some truly beautiful terrain. Furthermore, there is an amazing culture around the sport. It is a very welcoming community so you feel at home no matter where in the world you are. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and get to know so many amazing people because of my involvement in cycling.
What was the highlight of your 2013, and what are your goals for 2014?
The highlight of 2013 was definitely the silver medal at the National Time Trial Championships. I had only ridden a time trial bike a handful of times, had never raced in an elite field, and was not considered a contender for the podium.
My goals for 2014 are mainly learning goals, not performance goals. I want to be comfortable in the peloton, work on my bike handling skills, and learn how to read the race. Just being really strong isn’t enough at the elite level so I need to put the time in to learn cycling, the results will come later. I do have my sites set on the Canadian Time Trial Championships though.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I am very optimistic about the future of women’s cycling. I think there is a lot of progress, growth and momentum in women’s cycling and, given time and continued support, I think that it will become equal with men’s cycling. 2013 saw the foundation of the WCA, women’s pelotons are getting larger, prize money is becoming more equal, races like Tour de France and Amgen Tour of California are adding women’s stages, companies are releasing and expanding women’s specific product lines, and media coverage is increasing. I think it is a very exciting time for women’s cycling; there is a lot of growth and change.
If you became UCI president tomorrow, what would be the first thing you’d do?
I would work on growing women’s cycling by expanding the women’s calendar, requiring equal prize money, and increasing media coverage. Including women in the big events, like Tour de France, would likely also increase media coverage because it is those races that are popular and known by the general population. Furthermore, media coverage is higher at large events and increased media exposure increases the value the race has to sponsors. Therefore, I believe that the inclusion of women would automatically increase both media exposure and sponsorship. As for equal prize money, I think the UCI should set an example by requiring equal prize money at the large events, especially World Cups and World Championships. By having discrepancies between the men’s and women’s purse, you are in fact stating that a woman’s victory is worth less than a man’s victory and that attitude needs to change in order for women’s cycling to become equal.
How can the cycling world – fans, riders, race organisers and the UCI – encourage more women to start racing?
I think the support and interest of all of the above is key. Everyone can do something! My own experience, for example, was only possible because of the support of all of the aforementioned people: Tripleshot Cycling trained with me, taught me and gave me the opportunity to compete at National Championships, Trek Pro City (the bike shop I work at) gave me a road and time trial bike that would allow me to be competitive in an elite field, race organisers like Barry Lyster of Local Rides Racing ensured that there were women’s race categories, and countless people have helped me along the way with host housing, transportation, advice and support. Companies like Rumble and ZED wheels also really helped me out by offering sponsorship early in my career when it is very difficult to get support. There are also development programs like Global Relay Bridge the Gap fund and Cycling Canada’s development projects that gave me the opportunity to do things like race in Europe and learn how to ride track. Finally, many other riders, including Marianne Vos, Svein Tufft, Gillian Carleton, and Iris Slappendel just to name a few, have reached out and offered support, advice and mentorship to me. It really did take a lot of people to get me to where I am today! So anyone can make a difference! Go out and cheer on the ladies, offer to host a team, throw a few coins in the crowd prime purse. All of those things add up and make a big difference.
What could race organisers do to attract more female riders and fans?
The biggest thing race organisers can do is to ensure that there are women’s categories (plural) available. Often there will be half a dozen different men’s categories while all the women are thrown into one category. I think that can be very intimidating for a lot of women. For example, having a Elite, Cat 3/4, and a Masters or Citizens category would allow recreational or new riders to compete against other athletes of similar skill and experience. Especially time trials are an awesome event to split into multiple categories as it does not require any additional time.
I also think that u23 and best young rider classifications are very important. When they turn 18, female cyclsits are thrown into the elite peloton competing against women who have been racing professionally for years. It is a very difficult transition that can be quite discouraging. Having young rider classifications allows these developing athletes to continue to have some success as they grow and learn in the pro peloton.
There are still some people out there who think women’s racing isn’t as interesting or competitive as men’s racing. What would you say to convince them otherwise?
I think that part of the problem is that people expect women’s racing to be like men’s racing and it simply isn’t. The dynamics, the players, and the tactics are very distinct from men’s racing. However, “different” does not mean that women’s races are any less interesting or competitive. In most of the races that I have done, there is a wide range of ability; everthing from UCI teams to small club teams all lining up on the same start line. Generally, the first part of the race will split up the field into several large groups, determined mainly by strength and positioning. The start of the race is therefore raced from the back, the goal being to make the selection to the front group. Once the field has been whittled down, the front group will be much more aggressive and attacks, break aways etc will start to happen.
Here’s a time machine which you can use to meet any rider from any point in history. Who will you be meeting?
I would want to meet Beryl Burton. She sounds like she was a total badass! Not only did she win countless races and set record after record, she even beat the men’s records in some events.
Last question, and it’s the one that top psychologists agree reveals more about a person than any other: which is better – cats or dogs?
Dogs – obviously!