SEWTTS and new direction for 2014

Winter training is in full swing, and my Fastest Woman’s trophy went back the club cabinet today, ready to be re-engraved for me to collect for 2013 achievements.

So far I’ve largely won it because no other ladies in the club have had a go at challenging me for it, which makes it all a bit boring really and kind of spoils any pride I might otherwise feel (boo-hoo for me).

The year is looking to be different – with special thanks to one Rebecca Slack.

Rebecca Slack - SEWTTS creator

Rebecca Slack – SEWTTS creator

Bex has put her enterprise and energy into creating an amazing looking series perfect for women who want to compete against other women. I wrote about the series for TWC and RoadCC – but news stories are news stories, this series means much more to me than just reporting it’s emergence.

Perhaps my expectations are a little naively high, but I’m secretly hoping it’s going to reconfigure my whole racing experience and evaluation of success.

The South East Women’s Time Trial Series (SEWTTS) has been designed to provide a friendly but competitive environment for women to race time trials, against other women. Similar organisations such as the Midlands Women’s TT series and the London Women’s Cycle Racing League have already proven to dramatically increase participation.

I did join the London Women’s Cycle Racing League with the hope of finding some likeminded friends to race, but I’m not really a road racer so there was a fundamental flaw there. With 74 women already signed up to compete specifically in a TT series, this new kid on the women’s racing block is looking to be a success already and I’m excited to be signed up and ready to race.

2013 was ‘fairly good’ for me. If every year was a flavour, it would look like this:

2011 was Cherry Cola – all sweet and new and exciting – my first year of time trialling
2012 was Sherbert – immediate taste of success early season followed by a fizzle & disappointment with injury
2013 was a bit of a lemon merange pie, a few sharp notes of success, but mainly a mixture of lots of ‘Ok’ ingredients. It was a bit bland and a tiny bit muddled. I think perhaps the very early notes of boredom might have been setting in.

2013 had some good moments

2013 had some good moments

Firstly: I did too many ‘ok’ events where I was just chasing times, and not enough ‘super special’ events that were about achieving a precise goal. Where in Triathlon I could aim to qualify for the National Age Group  competition, now I was more like pack fodder aimlessly racing the clock.

Secondly: Time trialling for me is all about bettering myself – be that cutting down seconds, or beating someone who used to be minutes quicker than me. The problem with 2013 was that I didn’t do many races in 2012, so I couldn’t really measure the success of that year based on course times.

So what about using other people to benchmark? Well – I came first at some events, a third way down the list at others, and half way down the results at the National 25 and 50 – the field was always different and there were only a couple of names I recognised.

Yea, yea – bleat bleat – I know – many of you have heard my endless “did I get faster or not?” agonising before. The good news is – you might not have to hear it next year, thanks to SEWTTS.

SEWTTS is all about providing that missing ingredient: competition and a shared goal amongst a collection of same sex competitors. And hopefully a nice chat over coffee and cake after.

It really is quite futile comparing course times because weather conditions have such an effect. And if the list of starters varies so much at events, it’s hard to measure performance based on competitors times.

But a full field of women competing regularly at the same events? That’s a whole new game – isn’t it? With 74 sign ups thus far, when it’s cold and bleak and racing is far away, it looks like we might just get to play.

The beauty of time trialling is it’s individual nature – you can just race yourself and aim to improve, but really it’s a bit more fun when there is someone else involved – a faster rider behind you to run away from, a slower one in front to sneak up to and overtake.

If a large group of women genuinely descend upon a series of races, and this continues year on year, it makes racing so much more rewarding for all of us – because we get to enjoy what the boys have had for years: friendly rivalry, a kick up the ass if we’re slacking, and gratification if we get to see extra training paying off.

Not only that, but everyone has a rank based upon PBs. At first I was a little sceptical – doesn’t that mean those who have made long journeys for fast courses (ahem – such as myself) get to race in faster categories? Not really, since the boundaries are quite wide – so even if I hadn’t driven to Derby for a quick 25, I’d still be a Cat 3 by a decent margin.

The categories give me new goals: To be a high ranking Cat 3, and after that to aim to qualify as a Cat 2. Since the 25 mile margin is 60.01 – that means cutting 34 seconds off my PB. Of course beating the hour was an aim anyway, but now it won’t just be about the time on the clock – it’ll come with the reward of climbing up the ladder if I can do it.

I’m really excited to see what 2014 brings, and hoping to enjoy a greater goal than aimlessly trying to calculate average speeds over differing roads. Bring on the competition – we women have been starving for it for far too long.

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