The Road To Equality

The Road to Equality

Written By: Jasmin Welter

Most cycling enthusiasts have heard of Marianne Vos and Kathryn Bertine. And many even know that these racers work as hard for women’s racing and equality on the bike as off. Their efforts for “La Course”, a women’s pro road race just prior to the final stage of the Tour de France, achieved historic steps towards parity and visibility at the Champs-Elysees in 2014. Bertine’s Homestretch Foundation has become a game-changer for female elite athletes by assisting racers with housing, training, and racing in Arizona. Bertine is currently an Ambassador for Equality for Trek Segafredo, and is making the women peloton’s voice heard through education, documentaries, and books.

If you’re from the Midwest, you are lucky to have a local shero to look up to. Daphne Karagianis has not only been a fierce and feared competitor in races across the US, she has also been a driving force among the female cyclists in the Chicagoland area for years. 

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Outside of training hard for her personal racing goals - (mind you, she recently crushed the 2019 UCI race at the Tour of Zhoushan Island in China with Team Illuminate) - Daphne has made a tremendous contribution to many women through founding the non-profit organization Chicago Women’s Elite Cycling (CWEC) in 2014.

"I started Chicago Women's Elite Cycling because I believe women and girls belong in sport, and I saw a need in our community,” says Karagianis. Knowing the amount of support and community it takes to be a successful female racer, Karagianis launched CWEC to provide talented cyclists with a composite elite team and pro-level care and coaching for select races. For the past years, CWEC has sent teams to the pro races at well-known series like North Star Grand Prix, Intelligentsia Cup, Gateway Cup and Crit Nationals. 

In 2019, the organization put a focus on developing a broader pipeline of elite-rank racers by offering a development camp to Cat 2 and 3 racers in preparation for the La Crosse Omnium. With support from former pro racers Lauren Hall and Alison Powers, as well as soigneur extraordinaire Annie Byrne, co-owner of BFF Bikes, 11 racers from Chicago had the chance to sprint, suffer and smile through a week of training and racing under their experienced watch.

Developing the pipeline by equipping women with knowledge and skills that they can each take back to their teams is not only smart, it is effective to grow the local scene even more.

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“I believe that supporting female athletes today, giving them the same opportunities as their male counterparts, and starting at the grassroots level, will help level the playing field for future generations. I want to be part to that change, and help it along in every way possible," says Karagianis.

The combined efforts of experienced leaders like Daphne, who truly want to raise the road, and of hungry talent, who need an empowering environment to grow, make a true difference - not only today, but hopefully for generations of aspiring female racers who will toe the line in the future. 

Alongside the CWEC’s core team, the organization relies on support from cycling enthusiasts, the bike industry, and the community alike.  

Find out how to support CWEC:

Chicago Women's Elite Cycling

Instagram: @chiwomenselite

Twitter: @chiwomenselite

Daphne with the CWEC Development Camp participants in La Crosse, WI

Daphne with the CWEC Development Camp participants in La Crosse, WI

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