Last week, Bicycling Magazine came out with a poll asking, "Who's the hottest female cyclist?" Five racers' photos were included. None of them was pictured in the heat of competition, most of the photos were glamour shots and all of the cyclists are inarguably beautiful, wonderful women. Now, I'm not going to start preaching about sexism and equality and blah blah blah -- I'm actually fine with this kind of hottie list coming from the likes of Maxim, FHM or even People. That's what those publications do. Ranking physical beauty is their thing. But you know what else they do? Those magazines also write about the women.
What I'm not okay with is that Bicycling Magazine, a supposed "friend" in helping to promote women in sport, rarely gives professional (or amateur) female cycling any coverage at all. Three of the women in Bicycling's hottie poll -- Britain's Victoria Pendleton, the USA's Dotsie Bausch and Sweden's Emilia Fahlin -- are so much more than beautiful faces. They are an Olympian, a world-record setter and a national champion, respectively. But who would know that? From race results to training features to personal profiles, very little of Bicycling Magazine's content is about women.
If Bicycling's hottie list were one of many features on females, that would be one thing. But it's not. So the hottie list is just a tad insulting when it's the only time Bicycling pays attention to the fantastic females of the sport. And honestly, it makes the magazine look just plain silly. Bicycling Magazine rating female pro cyclists is like Entertainment Weekly grading opera performances.
Either stick to what you know, Bicycling: mass-market male clothing, high end bikes for triple chain ring weekend warriors -- or start covering women regularly and knowledgeably. Start measuring talent by watts, not hots. If you're going to rank a female athlete, here's the right way to do it:
Announcing, in no particular order, the first-ever 10 Super Female Watties of Road Cycling, where physical power is beauty. Vote for a winner if you must, but espnW thinks these top 10 (plus three) are all equally awesome.
Jeannie "Did you call me old? I can't hear you way back there" Longo (FRA)
Longo has the winningest record in the history of cycling -- male or female. She's now 52 and still ruling the game. People who scroll through Longo's list of national, world and Olympic titles usually get carpal tunnel syndrome before they're done.
Kristin "Mama's gonna knock you out" Armstrong (USA)
Armstrong won gold in the time trial at the Beijing Games. She retired, had a baby, then recently unretired and is coming on strong for a shot at the 2012 Olympics. Don't call it a comeback -- she's been here for years.
Giorgia "The real Italian Stallion" Bronzini (ITA)
Reigning world road race champion Bronzini is a force to be reckoned with. A deadly sprint and unwavering toughness make her one of the best competitors on the pro circuit. She's the cyclist you'd least like to meet in a dark alley, and most want to have on your team.
Greta "It's my legs you should worry about" Neimanas (USA)
Neimanas is an amazing cyclist. A 2008 U.S. Paralympic Team member and multiple medalist in world and national events, Neimanas is also a member of the stellar pro team Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12, competing regularly against all classifications of cyclists. Competitors rarely notice Neimanas has only one arm. After all, it's her powerful legs they need to worry about. This athlete should be on every top-10 list of badass women in sports.
Marianne "Nice girls come in first" Vos (NED)
Vos has gold medals and world titles all over the place, but you'd never guess it. Humble, gracious, ego-free and approachable, Vos has the ability to domestique for her teammates as well as dominate as a champion. She is cycling's model of how a champion pro athlete should behave.
Coryn "Most people have socks older than me" Rivera (USA)
Rivera, who recently turned 18, has already won 32 U.S. national championship gold medals in road, track and cyclocross racing disciplines. She is the most decorated junior cyclist in America, male or female. Watching her rise through cycling (and the peloton) is a terrific experience.
Clara "Asphalt, ice ... whatever. Your choice. I'll destroy you on either." Hughes (CAN)
Hughes is shooting for her sixth Olympic Games in 2012. Even more impressive is the fact she's an Olympian in two sports -- cycling and speedskating -- with six Olympic medals to date (four bronze, one silver, one gold). This year, Hughes is capturing nearly every time-trial title en route to London. Topping it all off, she's a happy person with a great smile. Even when destroying her competition.
Amber "I'm just a little thing ... and I will rip your legs off with my teeth" Neben (USA)
Neben is all of 5-foot-3 and hardly over 100 pounds, resembling a coxswain more than a cyclist. But don't let her size fool you: Neben is the 2009 world champion in the time trial and an Olympian to boot. Tough as nails, Neben has beaten spinal meningitis and cancer, proving so far that nothing can keep her down. With her six wins and a multitude of podium placings in 2011, we're betting nothing ever will.
Jessica "If you build it, they will come" Phillips (USA)
Phillips has two major titles under her belt, a 2002 road-racing national championship and 2009 time-trial title. She could have stopped there, but in 2011 Phillips went on to a more impressive feat: organizing a top-level pro race for women in Colorado. When she heard the men's U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge didn't have a women's event, she watted up and made one happen in the Aspen/Snowmass Women's Pro Stage Race. One small step for women, one giant step for cyclingkind. Thank you, Jessica.
Evelyn "I can analyze your stock portfolio between intervals" Stevens (USA)
In 2009, Stevens went from Wall Street analyst to pro bike racer in just over a year, garnering a world team spot and a 2011 national championship in her newbie debut.
And a special Watties nod to three of the hotties Bicycling didn't do justice to:
Emilia "I'm really pretty ... clueless as to why Bicycling failed to mention I also kick ass" Fahlin (SWE)
Twenty-two-year-old Swedish sprinter Fahlin has already been the national champion on the road and in the time trial. The cycling world is Fahlin's oyster, and a long career awaits this terrific athlete.
Dotsie "Yes, I'm a model ... a role model" Bausch (USA)
Bausch is a six-time U.S. national champion, two-time Pan Am champion and part of a team pursuit world-record-breaking team. Off the bike, she's a cycling coach and a model who touts the message of wellness for women everywhere. Now that's what we call an all-around role model.
Victoria "Secret ain't half as sexy as my world-dominating quads" Pendleton (GBR)
Pendleton is a British, Olympic and world track champion who's been a force since 1999 and is a member of the superhuman Team Sky. Still going strong, Pendleton is a main contender on the track for London 2012. Bicycling polled her for being hot, but like every other woman on this list, Pendleton should be celebrated for her watts -- of which she generates many.
Before readers chime in with suggestions of other cycling Watties, know this: I would have made this list a top 500 had there been room. So go ahead and keep your hottie list, Bicycling. While the world will continue to rank women on their looks, magazines will continue to poll athletes on their faces instead of feats and female athletes will continue to struggle for equality, we can change one thing: We female athletes can make our own lists, ranks and polls of what really matters, and we can live by those standards 'til the rest of the world catches up.