Following an epic push from organisers to encourage as many women as possible to take part, a cyclo-cross event in Campbell Park, Milton Keynes saw a field of 165 female riders roll off the start line. The race exceeded existing records by almost 50 participants, with 118 at an event in Ipswich being the previous record.
In order to attract such impressive numbers – many of whom were first timers or completely new to cyclo-cross - race organisers, Velobants CC, engaged with surrounding regional leagues. They also worked with Helen Wyman, a British cyclo-cross athlete and coach who drove the #Helen100 campaign which successfully funded the entry of 100 female riders for the HSBC UK | National Cyclo-cross Championships.
Becki Morris, British Cycling Women's Cycling Project Manager, said: “This goes to show that if you engage women in the right way by using a strong network of advocates and champions and by showcasing the sport for the fun and embracing atmosphere that it is, women are willing to put themselves out there and try something new.
“It’s amazing to see so many women feeling empowered to embrace cyclo-cross – our fastest growing cycle sport amongst women – and we hope that other clubs across the country look at what’s been achieved here and feel inspired to do the same.”
Nathan Thomas, from Velobants CC and Event Organiser of the ‘CX in the City 2’ event - part of the Central cyclo-cross League, said: “In terms numbers we had optimistic targets and have smashed them this year – with 600 entrants in total taking part in 2018 to 800 plus in 2019. The main target for us was to get 100 women on the start line but to have 165 take part was simply amazing. We’re now looking forward to 2020 and the 200 figure has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?!”
Elaine, who took part in the event for the first time after being encouraged to go along by a friend, said: “It was brilliant - really hard work and a little bit scary at the start but as soon as the field thinned out it was great fun. It was much better than what I was expecting and with each lap I was gaining in confidence on the technical bits so I’ve now ridden things that I never thought I could ride!”
The success runs in line with British Cycling’s One in a Million campaign which supports and encourages women to choose cycling – at whatever level – by tackling the common negative perceptions preventing women from reaching their cycling potential. British Cycling’s wider strategy is to get one million more women on bikes by 2020: a target set in 2013.
For more information about the campaign and to explore routes into riding, racing and recreational cycling for women, visit the women’s cycling hub.
With the cyclo-cross season well underway, there are plenty of cyclo-cross events to ride or spectate, along with a wealth of tips available via the British Cycling Insight Zone.