Tag Archives: racing

Racing by the seaside. And a bit of a moan.

Sunday was Eastbourne Cycling Festival. It was brilliant – the sun (mostly) shone, and there were plenty of people who came down to the seafront to enjoy the weather, ride their bikes, and watch the racing.

There was a sportive event in the morning – I’ve had a look at the route and have one word for you: hilly. There were also a charity mountain bike ride, some running events (*raises eyebrows*), and a duathlon.

Then there was the racing. There were some junior races, the South East Regional Youth Champs, 4th category, 3rd category and E12 races. A quick glance at the sign-ups for the E12 race shows you that there were some big names racing – it was a fast paced race that took no prisoners! Cornering on this circuit looked…fun. I’m genuinely surprised there weren’t more crashes. I forget these people actually know what they’re doing.

The results of the racing will soon be posted here, if you’re interested.

As well as the crit racing there was some fun stuff going on for families – including a children’s Go Sky Ride course which looked like it was at about my level. You could make a smoothie by pedal-power, race your friends on a WattBike, watch some amazing BMX stunts – or just eat far too much ice cream. I had a brilliant day watching friends race their bikes, talking too much, and chasing balloons that were blowing away from the Team ASL360 tent.

jpeg-4

3rds race

jpeg-2

Team ASL360 tent

jpeg

Chris McNamara wins the E12

Now that’s all very nice, but I’m afraid there is a moany bit. And it involves two words which often strike up debate: podium girl.

It was hardly the Giro D’Italia, so whilst there weren’t rows of podium girls in tight dresses, bouquets of flowers and bottles of champagne, we had our own South Coast spin on the idea: an attractive young woman in denim hotpants to present the prize money – and a kiss. I have no idea if this woman was being paid, or whether she was part of the Harley Davidson sponsorship deal. She looked pleased enough to be involved, if a little out of place and awkward. So what’s my problem with her being there? I’ll try to sum it up, briefly…

Let’s discuss how many women were involved in the racing on Sunday. There was one girl in the youth race. There was one woman in the 4th cat race. And there was one podium girl. Without going into the reasons why there weren’t more women and girls racing (I’ll do that in a minute) – just think for a second about what message that is sending out, especially to the crowds of children who attended Sunday’s event. Women’s place clearly isn’t in racing – why else would they be so under-represented? But if 33% of the women involved with the racing were there to be an ornament and to kiss the men who won a race…well, maybe that’s a more fitting role for a girl.

There was no women’s race organised on Sunday. Had there been, I believe we would have seen a decent number of women on the start line. It would have been a smaller race than the men’s – but until the races are there, they cannot be filled. It is a viscous circle that needs to start with event organisers giving female racers an opportunity.

We are seeing an amazing rise in the popularity of women’s cycling in this country. The line up for the women’s races at events such as the Johnson Health Tech GP and London Nocturne serve to prove that. I know of more and more women locally who are taking up racing, or thinking about it. There’s lots going on – but the fact remains that there is still a huge inequality in women’s cycle racing. At a professional level, the difference in pay and prize money is often appalling, and at a more local level, many women’s races are still E1234 – first timers racing against the top level athletes. Things are improving, and I’m really hopeful about the future of women’s racing – but we still have a long way to go.

I don’t have anything against people wearing hotpants. In fact, I encourage it. But for as long as women’s racing is very much second place to men’s, I will continue to be insulted by the use of podium girls at races.

jpeg-3

Team ASL360′s Pete Morris wins the 3rd cat race

Twenty minutes with Jo Tindley

On Friday I went up to London for the team launch of Matrix Race Academy. I had the pleasure of talking to Jo Tindley for a while about her place on the team.

WITH PERMISSION OF ANDY WHITEHOUSE

WITH PERMISSION OF ANDY WHITEHOUSE

Jo Tindley joins Matrix Race Academy for her second season back after 5 years away from racing. In 2012 Jo finished fifth in her first race and then went on to win her next two at Thruxton before taking 10th place in her first National Series Road Race. Last Spring Jo rode the Johnson Health Tech Tour, the Women’s division of the Halford Tour Series, and finished the series seventh overall, finishing second in the sprinter’s competition – just one point off the lead.

Jo is looking to have a big season as part of the Matrix Race Academy. I chat to her about the world of women’s racing and what it’s like to balance her cycling career with four jobs.

————-

What is your day-to-day lifestyle like? Do you have much time for anything but cycling?

We [the team] spend a lot of time together. I’ve got four jobs – all shift work. I’m constantly working! I don’t really have time to go off and do other things unless it’s a race.

How do you cope with balancing your jobs and cycling? Is it difficult?

I was working all through the Winter, it was horrible. I was on the bike at 5 or half 4 in the morning through the middle of the Winter with all these lights on and stuff – it’s changing now, and I’m down to three jobs…I’m slowly petering them off so I’ve got enough to earn money through the season but still have commitment to the team. At the minute I’m coping fine. Beforehand when I was a junior and an under 23 I struggled, even just with school stuff. But now I manage everything really well. I want to be a bike rider, I want to race – so I’ve made sacrifices. I’ve got rid of my car and I ride to all my jobs. So instead of going to work all day, coming home and thinking “oh god, I’ve got to train now”, I’m like – well, I’ve done two hours training because I’ve ridden there and back. I fit everything in – everything is about cycling.

If you were a male cyclist in the same position, do you think you’d still have to work those jobs or could you make it work full time as a cyclist?

I don’t know. Personally, I think it’s a lot harder for men. You’ve got to be performing and you’ve got to be doing really well.

Is that just because there’s more competition in the male sport?

Yeah, that’s it. It’s a different league, you can’t really compare it to the same. I think there are more opportunities for men. But, because of the Olympics, women’s cycling is going in the right direction. I’m on the road commission for British Cycling, and I’ve seen the great developments that are coming through. From where I’ve come from as a Junior, there was nothing. There were no races – you’d have 30 women turn up, now you’ve got 80. It’s not going to be long before women are thought of as the same. It might not be until the next Olympics, but it’s on it’s way. We’re getting more credit, things are changing, and Stef [Wyman, team manager] is doing a fantastic job. This team…it’s going to be good this year.

Obviously you love cycling, but are you a fan of the sport? Do you follow any specific riders or teams? Does it interest you to watch races?

No, not really, I’m very single minded and I want to ride my bike. I’m not really that bothered by what everyone else is doing, it’s none of my business and I can’t be bothered unless I’m in the race with them. If I get time I will watch races, like the Tour de France and the Tour of Britain. I wouldn’t say I’m a massive cycling geek…I don’t buy Cycling Weekly, I don’t look at the BC site. The only person I really follow is Mark Cavendish: ‘cause I just think he’s cool.

You started racing at the age of 12. When you were a junior were you very aware of the fact you were a girl, did it hinder you at all or did you just get on with it?

Back then being a female you were a second-class citizen – this was 2002, 2003 sort of time. There wasn’t much opportunity for women to race and there was never a tour series or anything like that. You get stuck with that stigma of being a girl: you’re not strong enough, you can’t ride a bike very well. As a junior, I always rode with the men so in my eyes I rode like a man and I got treated like a bloke. You’ve just got to get on with it, it is a male-orientated sport, and that’s probably never really going to change. Yes, there’s a divide, obviously, but it’s getting there. I think that everything that’s happened in the last 5 years is so positive, it’s just brilliant.

It does seem to be the case that women’s cycling is on the up. I’ve just got my 4th cat license and have a diary full of women’s races, but I know that just a few years ago that wouldn’t have been possible. It seems the sport is getting more popular and receiving more credit that it ever has before. Why do you think that is? Is it just down to the Olympics, or are people’s attitudes just changing over time?

I think the whole build up of having the home Olympics is the main thing…the women’s road race was just spot on – you couldn’t have written that any better. That’s how it started…but it’s the whole build up, and everyone putting all this funding into sport, I think that’s what’s done it. I think probably the Olympics was the main catalyst…how well Lizzie did and how well the girls did on the track…people have realised that actually you can still be girly.

So do you think it makes a big difference having feminine role models in the sport?

It makes a massive difference. Back when I started no one ever had their nails done, whereas now they’re all getting that stuff. That’s not me, but it’s all part of it. I think that’s what really appeals to the girls, that they’re good bike riders but can still be glamorous. The whole stigma has changed, and it’s just going to get better.

Do you know much about the #fanbackedwomenscycling initiative that Stef and the team are involved with? What are your thoughts on it?

I think it’s an absolutely fantastic idea. All the reports I’ve had from these race training sessions…have been brilliant. It’s another way of finding new talent to come through. I’ll be a bit blunt…I understand [beginners] have got to start somewhere, but I don’t want them starting in my race. Giving the 4th cats their own races is a brilliant idea and has made such a difference to our racing.

Matrix RA are supporting the Bedford 3 Day in May. Do you think there are enough women’s races in the UK? I do. I mean, I race a lot with the men so it doesn’t really bother me, I’ll just go out with the men. But I think there are plenty. Bedford’s going to be great this year.

What races are in the diary, and which are you most excited about? This season I’m very excited about the Johnsons Health Tech tour again, I would like to wear the sprinters jersey again and also have a stage win. Another race I’m looking forward to is the National Crit Championships and the Road Champs. I also hope that we get a chance to ride as a team in Europe in some stage races.

What are your goals for the season? What are you most looking forward to and what do you want to achieve?

What I’m most looking forward to is working as a team. I had a great come back year racing with VC St Raphael, they were an amazing help, but I am looking forward to riding for a more structured team. [Matrix RA] have got some of the top girls in the UK – whatever my role will be, it will be done properly.

My goals: just to keep progressing forward in my sport and getting better and better all the time. Ultimately I would like to turn pro one day so this to me is a stepping stone. The opportunities are there, I’ve just got to grab them.

——————

You can follow Jo on Twitter at @jltindley and follow the team’s progress at @onthedrops

 

Team - Matrix Launch - With Permission of Guy Collier

WITH PERMISSION OF GUY COLLIER

Matrix Race Academy launch

Say the words ‘cycling team launch’ and what comes to mind? Cyclists in their team kit, stood in a line, all matching hairstyles and fake smiles. There’s nothing wrong with the traditional team launch, but…yawn. We’ve seen it all a thousand times. So I was pretty excited to be involved in what promised to be a day like no other with the Matrix Race Academy on Friday.

Stef Wyman, Team Manager of Matrix RA and a champion for women’s cycling, was keen to create a day that would be interesting and fun for all involved, as well as creating a social media buzz. I think it’s safe to say that the aim was achieved.

Starting the day at Vulpine HQ

The day started bright and early for me – a 7.30am train (an unearthly hour for a Brighton freelancer) whisked me to Vulpine HQ in London. A big green ‘V’ told me I was in the right place and I was greeted by the lovely Jools (aka Lady Velo, and Vulpine’s sales manager), who was clearly just as giddy as me about the day ahead. A gradual stream of writers and photographers arrived, and of course the team themselves, along with manager Stef Wyman and European CX Champ Helen Wyman, who is a mentor to the younger riders on the team.

Much slurping of coffee, munching of croissants and introducing of friends later, the team took some time to drool over the Vulpine clothes and choose what they wanted to wear for their photos. I may have also tried on a women’s merino jersey for size. Important business research, you understand.

Whilst the photographers worked their magic I took some time to admire the new team kit. I was more than a little excited about the #fanbackedwomenscycling logo which I designed featuring on the kit. If you don’t already know about #fbwc, go do your reading, it’s a brilliant initiative that the team are backing, and the force behind some excellent training sessions for female novice racers like myself.

New season Matrix RA jersey, featuring the #fanbackedwomenscycling logo

The On The Drops girls liked their new Vulpine caps

I had the pleasure of stealing the fantastic Jo Tindley, a new Matrix RA member for 2013, away from the camera for 20 minutes to chat about cycling and her involvement in the team. Each rider chatted to a different writer, another way to insure a bunch of different perspectives and angles on the day and the team.

You can read my interview with Jo here.

Team issue trainers? Yes please.

After lunch we all set off in different directions accross London. We trooped off in three’s – one rider, one writer, one photographer. Where we went was completely up to us (Sarah Connolly took Harriet Owen to the zoo..) in the hope that at the end of the day we would have a variety of unique photos which would reflect the individual personalities of the women that make up the team. Awesome plan, I thought. Myself, Jo Tindley and photography Andy Woodhouse headed off into the quirky lanes near Old Street for our photos. Check out Andy’s set of snaps here.

Jessie’s photoshoot with Guy Collier

No bikes?! Jo isn’t too pleased about that.

Everyone met back up Look Mum No Hands for the evening launch. It wasn’t long before the cafe was full to the brim with people – the staff had to remove the furniture to make space for us all. Belgian beer, bikes, lots of familiar faces..and a whole bunch of new ones.

As well as Matrix RA, we also heard from Stef about #fanbackedwomenscycling, the launch of London Women’s Cycle Racing league and the Bonita women’s team. I could just about hear the team presentation over the buzz of the cafe!

What a day. Thanks everyone: I had a ball, and I feel more inspired than ever to support the awesome sport that is women’s cycling.

Team Presentation at Look Mum No Hands

Massive good luck vibes to the whole team for the season ahead – not that they need it, these girls have got serious talent.

Follow the team on Twitter: @onthedrops

Ready? No? Never mind…off you go.

A few days before race day I had the conversation with myself about not being ready. It ended like this: “you’ll never feel ready – so you might as well just go for it”.

I knew I hadn’t done nearly enough training, that I wasn’t confident enough on corners, that my leg speed wasn’t up to standard and that in every way possible I wasn’t prepared. Even without all that, I was really, really nervous. I had just one objective: finish the race!

Changing rooms pre-race… trying not to throw up.

Never mind finishing the race, getting there and starting it was a task in itself for me. As is my style, every time something went not quite to plan, I briefly considered running (cycling) off and going home.

So you can imagine my panic when, despite checking the contents of my bag about eight times, I realised that I hadn’t packed a pair of matching arm warmers. Instead I had packed one arm warmer and one knee warmer. On a normal day I could probably laugh at this, but I WAS ABOUT TO A RACE IN AN ACTUAL CYCLE RACE. So I ran around in circles for 5 minutes in a flap, and then decided to get over it and brave bare arms.

I almost felt like a pro when I was warming up: sat on the turbo, slurping energy drink, in my team kit. My friend Matt – who is a team mate and, rather helpfully, a bike mechanic – was on hand to make Claud race-ready (the beginnings of an entourage, I feel.) This feeling of confidence quickly subsided at the point that I got off the turbo and almost passed out. I rapidly returned to my nervous novice status, and had to stand with my head between my legs for a bit so I didn’t throw up..

Eventually it was time to get my arse to the start line. I was all warmed up, so, once again, you can imagine my joy at having a 25 minute delay to start the race. Having no arm warmers was slowly becoming a big mistake, as I shivered away with the other 3/4 women and men. A couple of Kent-Velo-Girls commented that I was very brave to go sleeveless – I pointed out that it was stupidity, not bravery.

Off we go…

At long last; time to go. I was so keen to warm up that my need for movement overcame my nerves and I was raring to go…sort of. Being massively catious, I made the mistake of starting right at the back, despite having been told by everyone I know that this was precisely what NOT to do.

AND…… GO!

The least said about the race itself the better. I went round and round the track, not fast enough, for about an hour. I didn’t fall off, or crash, or knock anyone sideways. I finished in one piece, a whole lap behind almost everyone else. The winner could have stopped for a latte and a slice of victoria sponge, got back on her bike, and still beat me. But do you know what? I didn’t care. Once I’d got my self together after the race, I was on a massive high the whole way home. So yeah.. I was a massive loser. But I’d beaten every part of me that was telling me I couldn’t do it, that I should run away, that I should give up.

The race on Saturday was also exactly 365 days since I first picked up Claud. I can’t quite believe how things have changed since then. A year ago, if you’d have told me I would not only enter, but also finish a cycling race, I would have laughed in your face.

Bring on the next one!

 

Come race with me…

Team ASL360 are on the look out for some more female riders. This makes me very happy for lots of reasons:

1) The more women riding bikes, the happier I am.

2) There need to be more opportunities for women to race, and this is one!

3) ASL360 is a small, well organised team with brilliant sponsors. So this is a great opportunity.

4) There’s a possibility that I’ll no longer be the only member of the team with nail polish to match her kit (although I’m sure the guys would look fetching)

Team Launch at the London Bike Show       (Photo © Klickchick Photography)

Currently the team is made up of Juniors; based in Scotland, and seniors; based in Sussex. Members vary from me, a newbie 4th Cat who hasn’t even done her first race yet, to guys who’ve been racing most of their life. Three ASL360 Juniors recently took 1st, 2nd and 3rd place on the podium for their race at the IG London Nocturne, at the London Bike Show. The diversity in the team makes it a pleasure to be a part of.

ASL360 is a company with cyclist safety at it’s core. That’s why they were at the London Bike Show with us last month.

Team ASL360 is the brain child of John Powell, the Sales Exec at ASL Vision – the company that designed and developed the ASL360 Surround View Camera system.

The team was formed because of a long standing passion for cycling and a desire to create awareness around ASL360SV. A system which minimises blind spots on any vehicle, including HGV’s, and so helps protect vulnerable road users such as cyclists.

As our team knows only too well, 53% of cyclists killed by trucks and large vehicles are crushed by them turning left – a renowned blind spot which this system addresses. If we can dramatically reduce the number of such incidences then we can increase public confidence in cycling and encourage more people to use this fun and sustainable means of transport.

Indoor Crit at the IG London Nocturne.    (Photo © Klickchick Photography)

If you answer ‘yes’ to the following statements, you ought to think about getting involved:

- You are a woman.

- You love cycling.

- You currently race, or want to start racing this year.

- You live close-ish to Lewes, in East Sussex (we have riders from Brighton, Horsham, Scaynes Hill, Hailsham…) Rides start there on Sundays, and it’s where we get together for team meetings.

If you think you might like to join Team ASL360, or want to find out a bit more about the team, feel free to contact me, or email John Powell directly at this address: teamasl360@gmail.com

—————————————————————-

Team Sponsors:

 

Racing & Resolutions.

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions.

The reason for this is that resolutions typically involve giving up nice things like alcohol or chocolate, and setting unrealistic goals for ourselves regarding diet and exercise. They’re never much fun, and we usually find ourselves failing to keep to them, and then feeling crap about it. A few years ago I started a little new year routine as an alternative to resolutions. Instead of making unrealistic promises to myself about things that, frankly, don’t really matter, I would use the start of a new year as an excuse to write a list off stuff I’d like to achieve/get done/try over the year. The idea of the list is that it’s full of stuff that I WANT to do, not stuff I think that I ought to.

There are lots of things on my list this year, but I’m just going to write about a few, which, funnily enough, involve Claud.

Whenever I write a list, I always put something I have already done at the top, so that I can tick it off right away and feel good about it (am I the only person who does that?) So, number one on my list:

☑ Join a cycling team

Yes indeed, you heard. I am the newest, most nervous, least experienced member of Team ASL360, based in Lewes. Thanks to them for having me…!

☐ Ride More Bike

Ride more. Ride Further. Have fun.

☐ Get others on their bikes

Probably my favourite thing about this blog is how it has encouraged a few people I know to ride a bike, when they never normally would. There was my friend George, who hadn’t ridden a bike for years and then had the most amazing day out on a bicycle, and my best mate Sabrina, who declared “I don’t ride bikes” and shortly afterwards was climbing Sussex hills on a road bike.

I’m already looking forward to 30 Days of Biking in April (the initiative that got me to start this blog back in September) and as part of that I hope to organise some more social rides.

☐ Race

I’m going to give racing a go. Who knows how it will go, but I have a feeling I may get hooked. Either way, I’ll be using the blog to document my progress, so look out for a post about my first race in the next few months.

Speaking of racing, yesterday I went up to Hillingdon with Jason and Matt from Team ASL360. Whilst the guys warmed up for their race I watched the women’s race. If I needed any convincing that I should try racing, this was it. Perhaps it was just because I was so cold standing and watching, but every inch of me wanted to jump on a bike and join in.

So, here’s to 2013: The Year of the Bicycle.

Women’s race (all Cats) – Photo (c) Huw Williams

Some of my phone photos from the day:

Women’s race (all Cats)

E123 race

Young supporters cheer on their dad

E123 race

Knog Muddy Hell

Last night I went up to London to check out Muddy Hell (“The Scariest Cyclo-X Race of the Season”) at Herne Hill Velodrome.

This was the first time I’d seen any cyclocross, other than on a computer screen. I turned up with a friend and a bag of beers – which was definitely a good move. Beer jackets deployed, we managed not to freeze to death. There was an atmosphere of fun right from the start, and I don’t think it was just the fancy dress. Everyone was having a brilliant time: riders and spectators.

Ghost rider on the Muddy Hell course

Beer tent

I had the pleasure of talking to BLIXA of Vélo Morphē after his race. Once he’d cleaned the mud out of his mouth with a Belgian beer, he answered my questions.

Mud everywhere, freezing cold to your bones, bike buggered from all the mud and body bruised from falling off – it sounds like a whole lot of pain. Was it really “hell” or is the suffering all part of the fun?

Riding Cyclocross really is the best fun you can have on a bike. Road riding is all about style, finesse and panache, the history and the suffering. Cyclocross is about the fun, suffering, mud, friends and beer.

Can you describe the course? It looks huge, and I’m pretty sure we couldn’t see all of it from the beer tent..

The course was winding and ‘technical’ – it flowed from the arena, then across the velodrome track to a sharp bank drop, then an off camber single track. It was extremely muddy and very treacherous. The course wound back in on itself, again and again as it went round the perimeter of Herne Hill velodrome. There was a steep bank climb which was then followed by some steps, before making its way back into the arena where there were the ‘whoops’ and the ‘barriers’ to skip over before the final hurdle of that ramp and jump.

Anything else to add?

That was probably the most fantastic thing I’ve ever taken part in.

BLIXA, aka The Raven Man. [Photograph (c) Nick Hussey of Vulpine Apparel]

“Muddy”. They didn’t lie.

Perhaps it was because I couldn’t feel my limbs due to the cold, or perhaps it was the beer I was drinking, but watching everyone race through the thick mud and in the icy rain made me wish I’d brought a bike and joined in the horrific suffering fun for myself. I want a go!

There’s no CX bike in my life at the moment, but I think it’s time I sorted that out. Bring on next year…

Demon Cyclist, AKA me. I told you it was cold.

Annoyingly I didn’t manage to get any decent photos of the riders, but you can check out the official photos here.

And an excellent video of the night by Olly Townsend here.