Tag Archives: women’s 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.

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3rds race

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Team ASL360 tent

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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.

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

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!