Makes all the Difference
I’m likely not fast, fit or brave enough, but I want to try road racing,” said (almost) no woman in Alberta, ever. Okay, there are a few brave women who’ve faced the intimidation of beginner road racing, often without the support of others also new to the sport.
But the numbers don’t lie. Women’s road racing in Alberta hasn’t seen more than five new racers a year for many years. In the entire province!
Until this year.
Discouraged by the lack of “newbies” and petrified to try it on my own, I decided to bring my own posse to the start line. Women like to do things together, right? Now how was I going to convince others to join me when very few had taken the leap in the past?
By appealing to their hearts rather than their competitive nature, that’s how. And if they were like me, the intimidation of racing, coupled with the fear of failure, cast too large a shadow to try racing. The interest was there; I saw it within our club. That was the impetus that created ERTC’s Women’s Learn to Race program – the aim to touch women’s hearts, create meaningful relationships and turn interest into action.
In March of this year, we started with the basics. Three information seminars, facilitated by a coach (thanks, Tim), addressing a myriad of topics: what is a Criterium, do I need a heart-rate monitor, what do I expect on race day, what license/equipment do I need, will I get dropped, etc.? No question was considered stupid. More than 60 women attended, sparking real conversations about fears and goals.
In April, we took to the road. Practice races, skills sessions and group rides put our knowledge into practice. Although our group varied in fitness and ability, we shared a strong determination to help each other reach our goals, both as a group and individually. No longer was this simply an idea; we had become a group of women ready to face the intimidation of racing, together.
It was time to take the leap. Our first race, the Velocity Stage Race (May 13-14), loomed near and we were all “nervouscited” as we made last-minute plans. The forecast was atrocious, but we were determined. Armed with tents, camping stoves, food for an army, tarps, blankets, winter jackets and literally every item of cycling clothing we owned, 11 women took the (very cold) leap. That’s 10 more women from our club than the year previous.
But we didn’t leap alone. Significant others also braved the weather to offer their invaluable support. Our “race sherpas,” as we affection-
ately called them. If you don’t have a race sherpa, I highly recommend finding one. Or come race with us – we’re happy to share ours.
What happened over the two days of racing is hard to put into words because for us it was felt deep in our hearts. Together we faced the rain/wind/cold, missed start times, embarrassing moments (tipping over at the time-trial start), road-spray mud masks, dropped chains, getting dropped, high-speed cornering . . . and the list goes on. And we loved it. Correction, we loved facing it together. No longer were my fears my own; they were shared and conquered with 10 other women.
Although secondary in importance to the goals we achieved as a group, we also had individual successes. Sarah, a mother of two-andhalf-year-old twins, placed so well that she upgraded to Category 4 by the end of the weekend. And Danielle, a third-year medical student, came within three points of an upgrade. I describe them this way to ensure that you understand that we are a very normal group of women. We face the very same challenges, fears and barriers as most everyone else. The difference is that we choose to be a part of something that is bigger than each of us individually.
Many of us now have at least two races under our wheels, having just completed first the Stieda Classic Road Race and then the Criterium. These races brought new challenges, including gravel and the seemingly ever-present wind, but we conquered these the same way – together, this time filling two of the three podium spots for each race with our women.
We’re creating a domino effect in women’s road racing in Alberta. By flooding the start lines with new racers, we’re piquing the interest of other women. If you’re one of them, come join us! Find a club that supports new-racer development, ensure that you have a good foundation of skills and knowledge and bring your nervouscited butterflies to a race and share them with us. If you’re in Edmonton, check us out (www.ertc.org/women) – we’re always looking for women who want to partner their own goals with our focus of “together.”
And if you’re like me with a response of “Heck no, I’m not a racer,” be forewarned. That has been my mantra for the past five seasons. Last weekend, I was on the podium. And while it may be my legs that pedaled me there, it was our group of women that touched my heart and gave me reason to be on that start line. It’s for the laughter and friendship we share that I race, and I encourage you to consider the same!
Give racing a try for the laughter and friendship.
The women of ERTC are creating a domino effect in women’s road racing.