Well first of I think I should mention that I never ever ever thought I’d be writing a RACE report. I have some very good friends who love to race….and from watching the entire experience (or is it a journey?) that is RACING (…the completely stupid training programs, the idea that it is a badge of honour if you throw up, falling off and getting back on, the injuries, taking corners at speeds that should be illegal, 4:30am…) I very rapidly came to the conclusion that people who RACE are well, to put it frankly, mad.
I am a proud “chat and coffee” rider. Joining a club (SPR) was a big step for me. But I loved the social aspects of the club and I love the support that the club provided. I know that if I dropped off the back of a group ride, there would be someone there to help me to the end, or as I was slipping backwards up a hill there would be a much welcomed push. Equally importantly I knew that at the end of the ride there would be coffee, cake and some darn good chatting with some new found but much loved friends. And with this support comes the confidence to try new rides and to try pushing yourself to new levels.
Two seemingly independent thoughts:
- A significant hurdle to doing a crit race is the ability to cornering rapidly,
- Davina Summers is the master of organising people and she has been a big advocate for womens racing for many years now.
The joining of two seemingly independent thoughts: in true Davina style, when she realised why so many of the women in our club were scared of crit racing she organised a skills training night for us. She gave up her night to come and show us girls how to corner and answer any questions that we may have about crit racing. She organised a visiting Dutch cyclist (Adriaan) to come and help out and several of the SPR men (Luke, Toby, Jonno) also came down to stand on the corners and signal that it was all a-ok to take the corner wide, cut the apex, and go wide on the other side. This was much appreciated as it is one thing to understand the theory of how to take a corner, but quite another to have the opportunity to practice it knowing that you are not going to have a head-on-collision with a car. Davina also has the ability to tap into the psyche of women’s peer pressure and at the end of the skills training session she pointed out that we should all be registering because on the day when everyone else is lined up to give it a go if you are the only person sitting on the sidelines you will regret it. It was this moment that I know I was going to have to register…damn I hated her at this point.
I must confess that I also quite liked the idea that for once the “partner support role” would be going to someone else. For all those partners who get to the races early, help set up, sit on the registration desk, pin numbers on, get the drinks and random pre-race food, hold bags, put up with the pre-race flap, worry throughout the race about potential trips to the ED, and then listen to the post-race minute, intricate re-living of the race that can go on for days/weeks/months/years, the idea of getting to return the favour was kind of appealing.
Right onto the race itself….finally…
After Toby (on behalf of Dome) arrived to personally sponsor Lenny’s entry and ensure that she had absolutely no excuse for pulling out, the big field of 7 lined up…and then we were off….oh my goodness we were racing!!!! Davina came and rode with us – thank goodness, nothing like getting some instant advice (and encouragement) on what you should be doing as opposed to what you are doing.
And as much as I would like to re-live it lap by lap, pedal by pedal, all I can say is:
It hurt like hell. All of the girls gave it a red hot go. I was so impressed with the determination and strength the girls displayed. We attacked, we chased, we pulled turns, we even cornered like pros (well, in my head that is what it looked like). We regularly hit speeds of over 40km/hour going UP (yes it was on an incline) the start/finish stretch. We used all of the knowledge gained from watching others do this racing thing, to employ a few tactics….positioning is everything! First place went to Verity Keogh. And I must say this was richly deserved. Verity did some hard work on the front and put the rest of us in the hurt locker. Second and third place came down to a sprint finish that took everything I had to get over the top of Cathi Dixon who came in third. Honourable mentions go to all of the women who got to the start line and to all of the women and men who helped get us there. Alison and Amanda were amazing and did an incredibly job of chasing Verity’s wheel. Emma had a brilliant work ethic and I was struggling to stay on her wheel. Sadly she got a flat with 3 laps to go…I think she would have placed otherwise. Lenny! Lenny cornered and did not shout “slowing” once! Watch out for Lenny, give her another race and she will be leaving us all in her dust. I think we put on a positive and exciting race. It was brilliant to roll up to the club tent knowing that you had given your all and made the club proud. Did I mention it hurt like hell? Oh and it may have been just a teeny bit fun!
So what does it take to get women to race…? I’ve been thinking about this and I think it comes down to:
- Clubs that promote and encourage women to participate no matter what level they are at.
- People who do race (men and women) giving back and helping out others who don’t even know that they want to race.
- Specific race training events.
- Womens only races and within that a range of grades for women to race in… I know what is involved in being a top level rider and I’m not at that level – never will be. If racing means competing against girls that are of A grade and above (or even better, when the womens race gets put with C grade men), I’m just not interested…why pay a lot of money to last at best 2 laps? I would have more fun and get more out of going for a group ride. And still along this vein, I think the womens race should be between the B and A grade mens. We would feel less like an after thought and more like we are part of the racing program
- Women supporting women!
So I hope we did Renae and her family proud. Renae’s Race is a worthy cause and if pinning on a number helped raise awareness for cancer and promoted women in cycling I’m glad I found the courage to be a part of it.