Growing Women’s Race Scene

It’s fair to say the season is well underway. I’d intended, this year, to comfortably spread myself between crit racing and time trials. Figuring I needed the practice on the bends and in the pack, I started off with a crit late Feb and one in March.

Crit racing gives you a real buzz. For anyone wanting to get a taste of that buzz, our lovely Redhill CC have affiliated us to London Womens Cycle Racing league. The group is run by women who have recognised the need for more female only competitions and created their own league with a leaders table and a busy calendar. I’ll be doing the league’s time trial in Richmond Park on 30th June, but I mainly wanted us to affiliate so that other women in the club could have a clear pathway if they want to get into road racing – and I think the league is a fantastic operation for us to support for not too much money.

For myself, once summer started, time trials took over. I started to realise that (especially since I’m still in the ‘only racing once a weekend, thank-you’, club) I didn’t really have any spare weekends for crits, but there weren’t any TTs I wanted to sacrifice for so-so performances on a crit course. To be good at crit racing, I’m going to need a lot of practice… but the problem is I just love whizzing down dual carriageways trying to beat myself, and I’m not sure I can make time for both.

So – I spent a lot of winter working on Vo2 and anaerobic stuff – and now I’m pretty much just racing at LT. Poor planning, I know – but I’m having fun.

On the TT front, there are SO MANY more women racing. It’s amazing! So far I’ve entered a 25 with only a handful (I came second but not that proudly), a 25 with 18 women (I cam fourth), a 50 with 20 women (I came about 11th…!) and a 10 with 16 signed up and 3 DNS (I came fourth again..). It’s fair to say, where once you could show up and ride, and win your entry fee back for being one of three women, now there is a lot more competition. The fantastic thing is organisers are seeding us all together – so we get our own personal race – and it adds an awesome extra layer of excitement that I know men have enjoyed for years.

<<<HISTORY LESSON: For those who aren’t TT-literate : the events started a long time ago when bike racing on roads was illegal. So they set riders off early in the morning at one minute intervals, meaning they weren’t technically racing – they were just riding at 1 minute intervals down the same road at the same time. We still get set off at 1 min intervals – so it’s like a game of cat and mouse – catch the rider in front and don’t let the one behind creep up on you.>>>

Not racing together – just in the same place, one minute apart..

Now – most people who bother to show up at 6am on a Saturday morning are pretty dedicated and there aren’t many (any?) who don’t train for it – so being a woman with about 50 fast men hammering down on you, you’re likely to get overtaken a fair few times. If you’ve got 10 women behind you – and 10 in front – much more fun. Hence – I’m so excited to see so many women and hoping to see more.

I’ve not had many chances to ride on directly comparable courses this year. Our local fast one, G25/53 is closed for roadworks, so everything has shifted to G25/45s and G25/47s – much slower courses. With my 25 PB still at 1.03, I want to beat it but I just can’t find the course or the day (it’s been so windy!). Results this year are:

7th April – G25/47 (sporting) 1.09 (2nd female)
28th April – G25/45 – 1.06.26 (4th female)
1st May – Horne 9mile club TT – 23.45 (previous PB 24.30)
12th May – H50/8 – 2.19.13 (Seriously windy day, previous PB set in 2011 – 2.27.00)
25th May – H10/8 – 24.59 (4th female – PB)

The only directly comparable TT I’ve done was the club event at Horne – and 45 seconds faster over 9miles seems healthy. Though suddenly there are loads of girls putting out great times, I’ve also seen myself come within seconds of Deborah Percival and Tereasa Goddard this year. It’s hard on a TT to compare via other people, because it’s such an individual sport – but when I first started racing in 2011 I held those two up as ‘women I’d like to be as fast as’ one day. They used to beat me by miles at every event and I was always busily comparing results. It seems I’m maybe, possibly, just about getting there. The problem is now of course I’ve reset the target. I know what I want for 25miles and I know what I want for 50miles – and it’ll take me a couple of years to get there I expect, so plenty to keep me motivated.

Not very aero – after last years injury layoff I’m a bit paranoid about my back – so I put my bars up by a spacer for the 50. Don’t worry — they’re back down now – and I’m buying a new bottle holder…

Reassuringly, I know the women I’m coming close to this year are capable of 1hr and 1.01 25s – given the right day and the right course. Maybe, in a sport that is all about you vs the clock, that means nothing – but I’m hoping come June, July and August I can at least grab myself  a 1.02..

Next month, I’ve got the National 25 and National 50. I’ll come pretty low down on the list, but it’ll be exciting to be racing with so many really fast women on my tail. Bring it on 🙂

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