If I think back to my pre-cycling me I would have been amazed at my devotion to cycling and I would have thought it was extraordinary that I’d tried racing.
I’ve spent my whole life being the ‘non-sporty’ type. I remember being reasonably involved in little athletics and other sport when I was at primary school but once I reached high school I tried my hardest to get out of any sporting endeavour and particularly any competitive one!!! At my school the sporty girls were encouraged to be involved but if you weren’t any good at sport like me you could easily slip under the radar.
In fact I think this was a real problem with physical education when I was at school and I hope it’s changed a bit. If you didn’t participate in an organised sport then you pretty much did no physical activity except for a once a week PE session.
So when I started cycling my motivation was not to compete but just to get fit and have a bit of fun.
One of my best riding buddies Michell was the one who got me to the starting line of my first race. It was the Waratah Veterans race at Eastern Creek and I raced ‘F’ grade. They call it a social grade and award no prizes. From memory I think I came fourth in a field of six but I actually quite enjoyed it.
A few months later Phillip bought me a racing license and joined me up to LACC – Lidcombe Auburn Cycling Club – as a present and the scene was set for some more races.
Since then (with the encouragement of Phillip, Michell, Shiona and Stu and others) I’ve raced four times with LACC at the tennis centre at Sydney Olympic Park, competed in a club time trial championship at Penrith Regatta Centre and a club championship at Horsley Park. I still don’t think I’ll ever be a cut-throat competitor but I have enjoyed the camaraderie of the events.
The main benefit I’ve gained from participating in races is learning how to push myself to my physical limits. This is a totally new concept to me. For anyone who’s participated in competitive sport this will probably sound a bit silly but for me it’s reality. And just in case you’re wondering……… I feel physically sick before every race and completely elated when I cross the finish line (even though I’ve never even got a place).
LACC is a really friendly club and encourages riders of all levels to participate and there’s some other clubs around Australia who are doing a great more too. St Kilda Cycling Club in Melbourne has two women’s only race teams, has women only rides and their own committee to drive the women’s program. Bridie O’Donnell who I interviewed earlier this month is a member of St Kilda and she sees it as a huge benefit.
In researching for this post I also found a Brisbane club called Balmoral Cycling Club. They have identified women over 30 as a key group they need to focus on and have started a separate program.
Clubs like these also offer workshops that are specifically designed to teach women some of the bike skills and knowledge they need for bike racing. I actually attended a weekend workshop supported by NSW Cycling earlier this year that focused on racing skills. Look out for these types of events in your area.
So if you’re thinking of giving racing a go I recommend you jump in. You might surprise yourself and find you like it. If a non-sporty type like me can get something out of it then anyone can.