At some point in many people’s cycling lives, they get to the point when pluck up the courage to take part in an organised event.
The leap from informal cycling to riding in an event can seem daunting at first but there’s a growing range of options targeted specifically at women who are keen to take their cycling to the next level.
Try sportives for size
The sportive market is continuing to grow and diversify, with the season getting longer and organisers offering events for an ever-growing spectrum of riders. In an attempt to break down the ‘MAMIL’ (middle aged man in lycra) stereotype and open up sportive riding to new audiences, many organisers are incorporating women’s only rides into their events, to attract female first timers into the sportive arena.
The Dartmoor Classic has launched the Dartmoor Debutante, in conjunction with British Cycling’s Breeze programme, as a stepping stone between led Breeze rides and the full-on Dartmoor Classic experience.
The long running Wiggle Magnificat Sportive has its own women’s only ride, the Ladycat, which, like the Dartmoor Debutante, is supported by Breeze, and offers a 26 mile route starting and finishing in Newbury, run alongside the established 51, 81 and 127 mile routes.
Cycletta is perhaps the most well-known brand in the burgeoning women’s sportive market. Beginning a few years ago with a single event, Cycletta is now a full-on series of seven events running from May to October and is a great way for women to get into the sportive scene.
Step into racing
"I turned up to the 2nd session on my own and very nervous. There were women there with lots of different goals. Some wanted to race, some just wanted to get more confident and skilful. The sessions were so successful they were extended and ran for a total of 10 weeks, finishing just in time for the start of the road season. British Cycling’s Jenny Gretton was really encouraging and advised us on what races to enter and some women only races were arranged alongside the Tameside League."
Nikola Butler, who went from newbie to racer thanks to the Tameside’s ‘Season Starter’ events.
There are women’s racing categories across all six cycling disciplines that British Cycling administers, with a growing number of entry-level women’s specific series set up with the aim of driving up female participation in cycle sport.
On the road, coming up this month is the opening round of Bradley Wiggins Foundation Women’s Series at Saltayre closed circuit in Lancashire. There are women-only ‘season starter’ events at Tameside and Middlesbrough.
Off road there are a growing number of women-only or female-oriented series springing up. The Filthy Foxes Dirty Weekend is billed by organisers as “a chance for women to jump on their bikes or throw on their trainers and enjoy the beautiful trails of Newnham park without testosterone fuelled shouts of ‘On your right!’ ruining the fun.”
Team events are great for any newcomers to sport, with off-road events like Wiggle Mountain Mayhem offering camaraderie, mud and fun.
Build your racing skills
Taking the leap into the world of road racing can however be daunting. Thankfully, women’s specific training sessions are on the rise and are a great way to gain the skills and confidence to take the plunge and enter your first event.
Greater Manchester’s Tameside Cycling Development Group are pioneers in the provision of training sessions aimed specifically at women, using the safe, controlled environment of the closed road circuit and offering a great starting point for prospective women racers in the North West.
The 2013 women’s road race training sessions at Tameside are well underway and include sessions on group riding skills, advice on cornering, starts, sprinting, race scenarios and feedback on bike positions. For more information on the ‘season starter’ sessions contact British Cycling’s Adam Newall on Adamnewall@britishcycling.org.uk
The Scott Contessa Road Race Academy takes place on 23 March in Edinburgh, and like the Tameside sessions, aims to provide women with the ideal introduction to road racing.
Find events now
If you’re ready to take the plunge into cycle sport here’s the current selection of women-only events on the British Cycling Event Calendar.