Renae’s Race – by Claire Tyrrell.
Jessica Allen, Emma Pooley and Josie Tomic have each graced tops of podiums around the world and the international cycling superstars have also claimed glory at WA’s Renae’s Race.
The criterium, in memory of Thornlie rider Renae Baker who died from leukemia in 1999, has built a reputation as the premier women’s race in the State.
The annual event came about in 2001 when former pro cycling legend Henk Vogels Snr, in his role as Southern Districts Cycling Club president, wanted to honour the promising young rider’s legacy.
“She was an integral part of the club,” Vogels said of Baker, whose brother Craig and father Geoff also rode with SDCC.
“Everyone was touched by her passing, so myself and (former State coach) Peter Robinson said ‘let’s make a Renae’s race’.”
Vogels recalled riding through the hills of Roleystone with the Bakers in the 1990s and described Renae as “pretty fanatic” about her sport.
Renae’s brother Craig opened Cannington Bike Force the same year Renae, two years his junior, died. Still running the business but as Bicycle Centre Cannington, Craig attends the race most years and said it was remarkable to see his sister’s name live on.
“It’s good that she was in the sport and they have had a race named after her to keep her name and legacy going,” he said.
Renae’s Race was held in Technology Park, where Emma Pooley won in 2007, Josie Tomic in 2009 and Jessica Allen in 2014, until 2018 when the Speed Dome hosted it.
When SDCC folded in 2012, SPR and Roues Chaudes took over the reins of the annual race and until 2017 Renae’s included both men’s and women’s races.
Attempts to make the criterium a female only race in 2017 and 2018 were not as successful as the clubs hoped and this year Renae’s Race will go back to featuring men’s and women’s races across four grades.
Roues Chaudes president Daniel O’Donoghue, whose club took on the event exclusively from last year, said it was not economically viable to make it for women alone.
“Renae’s Race has always been about promoting women’s cycling but there are obviously economic considerations in running an event – having the men’s race gives us the volume of entries we need required to cover the costs,” he said.
“We also had feedback from women who said to make it a more spectacular event we should include men too.”
This year’s event, held in Bayswater for the first time, will include a women’s come and try event run by Davina Summers.
Ring Series winner Teneal Attard’s business Chaotic Energy has also come on board as a sponsor this year, contributing a $1000 prize pool for women racers.
Attard said Renae’s was her introduction to racing in 2017, when she entered C grade and in a sign of what was to come took out top honours.
“At the time I knew nothing about racing, but it seemed like the perfect race to get into it with a women’s focus.
“I had a ball – I guess that is where my interest to get back into cycling and racing really started.”
Renae’s Race is this Sunday at Bayswater’s Clune Street Circuit. Entries close 12pm Saturday.