I’m of the view that anyone who rides a bike can call themselves a cyclist, although I’m sure when I started riding a road bike more than six years ago, it took me at least a few years before I’d tell people – “I’m a cyclist”.
A friend of mine sent me a link to an ABC report about an advertising campaign from the UK called “This Girl Can”. It’s spread through social media and is obviously resonating with lots of women, including me.
It sounds idyllic, riding your bike in the city of lights, but for eight Aussie women it’s more like lots of hard work for the next couple of days, as they take on the world’s best in the 2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
There are three female sprinters and five female endurance riders representing Australia so I thought it would be nice to profile them here, because although Anna Meares in a household name the other seven aren’t quite so well known, at least not beyond the cycling community.
The three sprinters are Anna Meares, Stephanie Morton and Kaarle McCulloch and the five endurance riders are Ashlee Ankudinoff, Amy Cure, Melissa Hoskins, Annette Edmondson and Rebecca Wiasak.
I’m often guilty of not promoting the good stuff I’m involved in, partly because I’m not good at self promotion and partly because like the car mechanic who doesn’t look after their own car, I’m a comms person who fails to communicate about the things I’m heavily involved with.
So to rectify this I’m going to tell you about a great pilot program from Cycling NSW that I am playing a small part in.
Jacqui Bogue, who is a member of the Board of Cycling NSW and the Chair of the CNSW Women’s Commission approached me late last year about a pilot program of women’s bunch rides run by Sydney cycling clubs. She was approaching all clubs to ask them to be involved and I readily agreed.
I’m a member of Lidcombe-Auburn Cycling Club (LACC) and the team coordinator of our women’s squad, and while I don’t do much racing I work behind the scenes, and I’m really keen to get inexperienced female cyclists involved.
Members of the team in action in the TDU women’s series
A couple of weeks ago word got out via a few media outlets that Cycling Australia has suspended its European based women’s development program with budgetary pressures cited as the reason for the decision. Within a week, an announcement came out that a new Australian women’s team will grace the domestic circuit with the creation of the High5 Dream Team. It seemed like a lucky coincidence at the time but it now seems that two are actually inter-related.
The High5 Dream Team is the brainchild of Australian cyclist Rochelle Gilmore as a way to offer more professional support, guidance and direction for talented Australian female cyclists. Last year Rochelle met with the high performance coach of Cycling Australia and discovered that the high performance program would be ‘paused’ due to financial pressures on the organisation.
Rochelle got on the phone to some of the riders that would be affected and was appalled to learn that many of them would actually be forced to leave the sport because there was no where to go for them. Spurred on by a desire to help these women stay with cycling, in two months she pulled together the NRS team.
I’ve just returned from the annual migration of Sydney cyclists to South Australia to witness the increasingly popular Tour Down Under. This year, as well as watching the male professionals at their best, we were also treated to a four day women’s series. It’s not that there hasn’t been women’s racing incorporated in previous years but it was always just an aside. This year the organisers stepped it up a notch, promoted it well and attracted a world-class field.
The four race series included two crits and two road races, raced alternatively over four days from Saturday, 17 to Tuesday, 20 January 2015.
I missed the first race because I was busy volunteering at a charity event but watched the other three keenly including photographing the action.
The race series forms part of the National Road Series (NRS) which will continue into 2015 with the added attraction of a number of high profile riders who race mostly in Europe but are in Australia for summer. Wiggle Down Under (usually known as Wiggle Honda for European races) fielded a team including Aussie stars Nettie Edmondson and Chloe Hosking, Orica-AIS was well represented, as well as Tiffany Cromwell racing for the local Roxsolt team.
I arrived in Adelaide on Sunday to enjoy the annual Australian festival of cycling. The first thing I did was head for the tour village to join a women’s only ride led by Tina McCarthy from Melbourne. Tina runs her own business called Wheel Women and she’s one of the most enthusiastic advocates of women cycling I’ve ever met.
So when Tina decided to visit Adelaide she naturally thought of organising a ride. She used social media to promote it and within a couple of days of announcing it she had 50 women signed up. It was a 30 km ride from the tour village, down to Glenelg, along the coast to West Beach and then along the Torrens River bike path back to the CBD.
My friend Shiona and I went along to help out as ride leaders and to encourage and support other riders.
Wheel Women has recently signed a partnership deal with my favourite bike manufacturer Specialized so the ride started from the Specialized stand at the tour village, plus Laura & Emily from Specialized also came along as ride leaders/mentors.
The latest decision by our own illustrious governing body, Cycling Australia gives me a sense of a few tiny baby steps forward, followed by a leap back.
I read stories earlier this week of Cycling Australia’s decision to suspend the women’s road development program in Europe indefinitely. From all reports it was a financial decision but it seems pretty short-sighted to me.
The always eloquent Bridie O’Donnell has written a blog post that summarises the whole issue very well so I won’t paraphrase it here. Read it in full for the inside story.
Confession time for me. Earlier this year, and for the past couple of years, I have ridden an average of at least 100 km per week, but something went a bit awry for me in the middle of this year, and since then my weekly averages have been steadily decreasing. In my mind I was still doing those 100+ km per week, but in reality when I look at the stats I keep I’ve been very, very slack.
I’m not really sure how it happened but I broke an ingrained habit, and I’m really keen to get it back, so I’m setting myself a realistic New Year’s resolution and that is to ride at least 100 km per week throughout 2015 and beyond. It sounds pretty achievable but when you’ve become a bit lazy like me, it’s easy to say, but much harder to do. So here’s a few tips for setting your own resolution. I might just have to read them several times myself!
Set a realistic, achievable goal
You will be setting yourself up for failure if you make your goal too ‘big’. That’s why I’m being really realistic and saying just 100 km. I hope in reality I will exceed it, but I want to make it achievable. So don’t go adopting my goal if you’re currently riding 20 km per week and you can’t possibly find enough time in your schedule to do this five times over. Just aim for 50 km per week which will be more than double what you are doing now, and break it down into two 25 km rides, over two separate days. I certainly won’t be riding 100 km on one day. I will aim to do at least three rides per week and hopefully four.
Merry Christmas to all my Women Who Cycle followers. I’m very grateful to have you in my circle.
I’m not going to recommend that you sit around and eat too much for Christmas, instead you should go for ride on your favourite bike. It’s exactly what I do every Christmas Day with a group of friends. We are lucky enough to live in the beautiful city of Sydney so we head for the Opera House but there are plenty of other great locations. This is our 2013 ride group. You’ll notice that we are very inclusive and have men, women and children along for the ride.
Let me know in the comments or on the Facebook page if you do something similar on Christmas Day.
Joining a cycling club is a great way to meet other cyclists and to step up from being a ‘Sunday’ recreational cyclist to that next level. Traditionally they have been primarily focused on racing rather than just riding but they are beginning to reinvent themselves as the popularity of cycling grows to accommodate riders who don’t necessarily want to race, and to welcome women who have not always been attracted to clubs.
When you join a cycling club in Australia you are actually signing up as a member of Cycling Australia which gives you a number of other benefits including public liability and personal accident insurance. On the Cycling Australia website under membership you can search cycling clubs in your area within a 5 km, 10 km, 25 km or 100 km radius, giving you a good shortlist depending on how far afield you are willing to go.
Once you have a shortlist you need to decide what your priorities are to find out what each club can offer you. You could consider criteria like location, whether skills training is offered, what training rides are available, the number of female members and the support given to female riders, racing opportunities for women, and of course what social activities are included.