Women’s Cycling – an update for 2019

With the UCI announcing the WorldTour calendars for 2020 and that women’s teams will enjoy minimum provisions with effect from next year, including minimum salaries and entitlements for riders, there is a feeling that cycling is moving towards parity for men and women. But is that achievable or is it just a pipe dream for the female riders in the UK? 

Over the past few years, there has been a move to make the women’s racing equal to the men’s, with race distances being made longer as a consequence. In the UK, there has been a push to increase race distances for women, especially at a National Road Series level, with most races now over 100km, whereas perhaps five years ago, there were hardly any races that were over 50 miles (80km) in length. Whilst this can be called progress, we are moving towards a professional level of dedication, something for which perhaps the women’s sport is not yet ready. For example, there are not many teams that are able to pay riders’ expenses, let alone a wage, and this then means that many riders are effectively priced out of the market, especially when most national level events start at 9am, therefore meaning that an overnight stay is required, at a minimum. It should therefore come as no surprise if organisers are struggling to fill fields, as it becomes more and more costly to race at a national level without any significant financial support (whether that is from a sponsor or a family member). Is this sustainable, or do we need to find a –

And then we have the talent pipeline issue – we struggle to retain female riders after the age of 16, when riders make the transition from Youth to Junior, so it was hoped that the introduction of a Junior Women’s National Road Series would help bridge the massive gap from Youth to Senior. Unfortunately, probably to some degree as a consequence of coinciding with a major staff restructure at British Cycling, the Junior Women’s Series has not had the support from British Cycling that those involved at a grassroots’ level may have hoped to see, with organisers being given no guidance or support and races not being tied into the Series on the British Cycling website, therefore making it more difficult to find out what races were part of the Series. Those of us who are supposed to be in the know weren’t even told, so how riders are supposed to navigate the system to find the races does bring into question whether there really is a desire to see a push towards equality from a road racing perspective at British Cycling. We need British Cycling to be fully on board with the Junior Women’s Series and make sure that it is properly advertised, with organisers being given support and encouragement to promote these events if it is to be successful.

Next issue to be addressed is the shift in attitude with regards to risk assessment interpretation. Those of us who promote events for women are all too aware of the financial implications of promoting a women’s race – it is extremely difficult for an event to break even without a men’s race being organised in conjunction with the women’s race. At a regional level, when we first started promoting road races for women in 2013/14, the most viable way to do it was in conjunction with an existing men’s race, using the infrastructure which was already in place to add on a women’s race, usually starting a few minutes behind the men. This meant that we could ensure opportunities were being made available for women, without having to worry about the numbers. Unfortunately, a change in policy has meant that concurrent racing (where you have two events running alongside each other at the same time) is no longer deemed to be acceptable from a risk perspective and therefore the number of opportunities women will have to road race going forward will likely be substantially less, as organisers will opt –

 for men’s races that are easier to fill, rather than a potentially financially unviable women’s race. The risk assessment process is something which needs to be challenged – the outcome of this change in interpretation has effectively put a protected group (women) in a worse position and it is therefore paramount that a solution is found if British Cycling want to avoid a contravention of their own Equality Policy.

So what does all of this mean for women’s cycling? Well, whilst it’s great that the UCI have implemented a minimum salary requirement for Women’s WorldTour teams, it seems increasingly unlikely that there will be an increase in British riders gaining places on these teams if there is only limited financial support for those racing at a domestic level. Yes, it’s great that we have professional level National Series events but if nobody can afford to attend the races or organisers feel that the financial uncertainty is just too much, then the likelihood is that future cycling stars will not come from the UK, unless as a sport we can look at how events are run and redesign it to encourage as many people as possible to take part.

There are changes afoot at British Cycling, and a willingness to accept that what has come before has not necessarily been acceptable, but whether it will be too little too late remains to be seen. Let’s hope that we can find some solutions before it is too late.

All images © www.chrismaher.co.uk | CyclingShorts.cc

Heather Bamforth

Heather Bamforth

CyclingShorts.cc Sub-Editor

Heather has been with CyclingShorts.cc for 10 years attending and reporting on major cycling events; Tour de France, Tour de Yorkshire, World Track Championships, World Road Race Championships to name a few.

Influencer, Trustee & Founder of The Racing Chance Foundation Charity, Member of the British Cycling Road Commission, BC Regional board member and National Councillor

Heather is a highly respected member of the British Cycling community, she founded the Racing Chance Foundation, a cycling charity to help women gain experience in cycle racing and progress their cycling careers.

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Race Report – Bickerstaffe Handicap Road Race

All images © Ellen Isherwood

 

Well they say “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” and that’s precisely what the riders who took part in #SouthportCyclingClub #BickerstaffeHandicapRoadRace did today.

An excellent race with Sarah Hardy and Nicola Soden forming an early break off the front of the first group, which would see Sarah solo to the win after Nic punctured. The scratch group were at 2 minutes and a group comprising of Amy Gornall, Mads Scott, Jo Ryding & Maxine Filby bridging across. Amy and Jo then set out to chase down Sarah, along with Flora Knight, who worked together to stay away from Daisy Barnes and Harriet Gilson who tried to chase the three down. Sarah held on for the win, with Amy coming second, Jo third and Flora fourth. Harriet and Daisy held off the bunch for 5th & 6th. Rachel Brown led the bunch in, in front of Becky Gregson, Laura Gray, Sandra Mackay and Kate Taylor.

A great showcase for #WomensCycling and a big thank you to Colin Baldwin for supporting the women by promoting the event.

Heather Bamforth

Heather Bamforth

CyclingShorts.cc Sub-Editor

Heather has been with CyclingShorts.cc for 10 years attending and reporting on major cycling events; Tour de France, Tour de Yorkshire, World Track Championships, World Road Race Championships to name a few.

Influencer, Trustee & Founder of The Racing Chance Foundation Charity, Member of the British Cycling Road Commission, BC Regional board member and National Councillor

Heather is a highly respected member of the British Cycling community, she founded the Racing Chance Foundation, a cycling charity to help women gain experience in cycle racing and progress their cycling careers.

Race Tactics – it’s more than just a lead out

The growth of women’s cycling over the last few years has since a big increase in numbers attending events. Whilst this is obviously a positive for our sport, it also means that there are more challenges in races, as many riders (from junior to veteran) have been brought up racing in smaller numbers, where the best sprinter invariably would win. However, times are changing, and with that comes the need to understand race tactics in more depth.  Admittedly, this is quite a large topic, so I will keep it relatively brief in the first instance.  Here goes…

Bunch sprints don’t work for anybody other than those prepared to sprint

So if you’re not prepared to get your elbows out in the sprint finish, or you don’t fancy sprinting, you need to rethink your options. Which could be any one, or a selection of the following:

  • attack off the front, on your own
  • attack off the front, with other riders (not necessarily your own team mates)
  • slim the numbers in the bunch down by making it hard
  • use the circuit to your advantage

All seem relatively straightforward, don’t they? But hardly anybody uses these tools to their advantage.

(c) Chris Maher 2016

Offence is the best form of defence

Not something you probably hear much within cycling circles – it stems more from American Football, but it is also true in road racing – go on the offensive and you are at an advantage straightaway. This doesn’t mean that you swear and curse at your fellow riders (the beauty of the English language); instead it means that you stay near the front and off the front, so that riders come to you.  And guess what? It really is easier, as you don’t have to keep chasing people down, because they come to you. This lesson is especially important when you are riding in a bunch of over 60 – on the continent, races can have up to 200 riders and you can’t ride from the back to the front if 200 riders are stretched out, so you have to be near the front. I always look out for riders who are happy to sit at the back of the bunch, as the chances are that they are biding their time and conserving their energy for the sprint at the end. But if they’re at the back, that means it’s harder to stay on wheels as the less confident riders tend to drift to the back and they run the risk of getting dropped if the pace goes up.

A race is just that, a race

Which means that it shouldn’t be easy. It’s called “competition” so if you are finding that everybody in the bunch is chatting away, chances are you’re going to end up with a mass bunch sprint at the end of the race. If you know your stuff, you will know that once it comes down to a bunch sprint, you are much less likely to be in control of your own destiny and are at the whim of others. So if the bunch is having a chinwag riding along and you need a result, you need to do as much as possible to ensure that the chatting stops, the pace goes up and your competition start to find it a bit harder, because that is how you slim the numbers down and swing the finishing result in your favour.

MuleBar Tour of Northumberland 2016 | Stage One

Know your competition

This is two-fold: you want to know who to avoid (for example, riders you know who struggle with corners, or brake excessively) and you also want to know who probably knows what they’re talking about, who’s up for a race, and who you would want in a breakaway with you. If you’re not sure who that should be, look at the list of riders entered and see who’s good at time trialling, as chances are they will be pretty strong. At the same time, remember that anybody who knows what they’re doing, regardless of what they look like or how old they are, will know which wheel to follow and how to sit in. The rule is, don’t underestimate your competition.

When an attack isn’t an attack

There is a time and a place to attack.  You can also attack more than once in a race, but if you’re going to do so, make sure that your early attacks are feints rather than full on attacks.  The idea with this is that you are seeing who is up for the race and who isn’t on form.  Make sure you attack in different places, but choose the timing.  For example, most attacks happen either just after the brow of a hill or a corner when, in actual fact, the attacks which have the most effect tend to be when people least expect it.

Keeping the pace high

I’ve been in races when a discussion has been had pre-race that we would try to keep the pace high to slim the field down.  The only problem is that you have that discussion with riders and then they don’t necessarily understand that it just means you do through and off at the front of the race at a fairly high speed; instead when it’s their turn to come through they attack. This tactic doesn’t usually work if you’re trying to keep the pace high. And regardless of what you may think, it’s generally a good idea to keep the pace high because the race is then safer and you don’t end up with people riding into the space underneath your armpit and encroaching on your dance space.

Lead out trains only work from the front

If half of your team is sat near the back of the bunch, it’s not going to work is it? You need rider numbers, speed, nerves of steel and lots of confidence to effect a successful lead out, so if you think your team mates are going to be hanging around the back of the bunch, pick another tactic to win your race.

Use the circuit to pick your moment

Watch your competition as they go through the finish line – if the finish is slightly uphill and people are struggling, knock it into your little ring and roll up and see whether you can ride past people as you go through the finish. When it’s not the final lap, nobody will notice that you’re watching other riders. If the finish isn’t your ideal finish, pick somewhere else to make your move – it may be a tight corner that you’re better than others at riding, or there may be a descent when you can press home your advantage – look at areas as you go around and work out what will work best for you.

Tour Of The Reservoir 2016 | Elite Spring Cup & Women's Road Ser

Don’t be a sheep – negative racing is literally the WORST

Don’t follow every single attack that goes up the road, unless there is somebody in it who you want to be in a break with (the potential race winner, perhaps?). Also, don’t just mark people because you don’t want them to win. It makes a race really really boring. If you’ve got the ability to chase somebody down why not continue and do a real attack?

MuleBar Tour of Northumberland 2016 | Stage TwoIf you’re there for the photographs, you really need to be off the front

Why do you think professional riders launch random solo attacks 200km from the finish? Not because they’re mental (necessarily) but because it gives your team/sponsor(s) exposure. So if you’re in a sponsored team, do your sponsors a favour and attempt some attacks, because sponsors want exposure of the positive kind. Thanking you in advance!

Enjoy yourself

Funnily enough, if you want to be there, you will probably surprise yourself. Don’t pressurise yourself into getting a result, just enjoy it for what it is – a bike race.

 

Check out Heathers previous guides:

Womens Cycling Planning Ahead

 

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

 

Cycling Santa’s Christmas Shopping Guide 2015

Cycling Shorts unleashes Santa’s Little Helpers.
Yes the panic is setting in, so much to get organised and so little time, so we’ve all got together to give you a list of gift ideas that won’t disappoint the fussiest cyclist or cycling fan in your life.

We’ve split our choices into four perfect price packages, click on the images to be taken to the retailers website.

Wishing you a Merry Festivemas from all at CyclingShorts.cc!

 

Secret Santa – under £30

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Santa’s Little Helper – under £100

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Something Beneath The Tree – under £500

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Santa Baby – money is no object!

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Press Release – Racing Chance Foundation and Team 22 – 2017 and beyond

The Racing Chance Foundation and Team 22 are very pleased to announce a joint venture that will enhance the opportunities available to Under 23 and Junior Women riders within the UK.

A true pathway for success

From 2017, Team 22 will act as the Under 23 and Junior development squad for The Racing Chance Foundation (“Racing Chance”). This will allow Racing Chance to offer a complete development pathway for riders. This pathway will cover and support progression for riders from novice-focused intro- to-racing days and race skills development sessions for more advanced riders, through to a development squad (Team 22). Then beyond that, there will be the opportunity to race overseas through organised racing trips, as introduced and run by Racing Chance in 2015.

 

(c) Dan Monaghan Photography

(c) Dan Monaghan Photography

Talent identification and development

Within this partnership structure, Team 22 will continue to operate as a separate team and will be supported as it is now through commercial sponsorship, thus ensuring that there is no drain on existing Racing Chance funds. Riders joining Team 22 will be supported through its existing structure of coaching and financial support, but will also have access to the additional opportunities available from Racing Chance. Both Racing Chance and Team 22 are already putting in place a scouting network that will allow us to identify and offer places to some of the brightest young bike racing talent in the UK, providing opportunities to riders not on an existing development pathway.

 

(c) Dan Monaghan Photography

(c) Dan Monaghan Photography

What does this mean?

Team 22 owner Colin Batchelor says: “This is an amazing opportunity for everyone involved in this partnership. For us, it’ll be great to be part of a true development pathway and the level of support and opportunity we will be able to offer riders is something everyone involved in Team 22 is very excited about.”

Racing Chance Foundation Chair Heather Bamforth says “By creating an alternative road based pathway, we hope to be able to encourage Youth A riders to continue racing once they leave that age category by easing the transition into road racing with the junior and senior women. This development can only be seen as a positive for all people who are keen to see numbers participating increasing, and the Foundation hopes to offer training opportunities for all young women in the junior and under-23 categories regardless of whether they go on to race for Team 22.”

 

Team 22 smll-43

(c) Dan Monaghan Photography

 

About RacingChanceFoundation.com

The Racing Chance Foundation is a charity registered in England and Wales which was set up in April 2014 to provide an alternative pathway for women in competitive cycling.  They focus on road-based events, providing training and racing opportunities from novice through to elite level.

Racing Chance have membership opportunities available, where you can join for £5.  They will have a membership area up and running on their website shortly, but in the meantime, they are affiliated with British Cycling, you can sign up here.  Not only will you be supporting a charity dedicated to women’s cycling, but the Foundation is also affiliated to Cycling Time Trials and the Manchester & District Ladies Cycling Association for those of you who want to have a go at time trialling but are not sure about what it is all about.  So, whether you are already a member of a club or are currently riding on your own, why not sign up today?  Men are welcome as much as women! In return you get exclusive access to their members and coaching area on the website (launching shortly), a discount off all purchases in the Racing Chance Shop for the duration of your membership (more benefits to be announced soon). You can also book and attend the charity’s heavily subscribed training events, for details of the latest events click here or why not visit the Racing Chance Foundation shop to purchase some stylish race kit, all profits from sales are put straight back in to the charity to provide more cycling opportunities for members. Even the smallest donation make a huge difference.

The Racing Chance Foundation is a not for profit registered charity: 1156835.

Women’s Cycling – Planning Ahead

Now that the Women’s National Road Series is over for another year, many people will be thinking about what team they want to be riding for next season, so given that the better teams tend to be sorted by August, I thought it would be helpful to give those of you who might not have gone through the process before some guidance.

Where do I start?

Firstly, a good starting point is to think about what you actually want to achieve next season and whether you have all the “tools” available to you to be able to do so.  For example, it might be something relatively simple like a need to improve on your base fitness over winter to help you be more competitive in the higher level races, or it might be something more difficult, like a lack of time and/or money.

Many people (male and female) make the mistake of applying a scatter gun approach to racing at the start of the season (a large factor being a plethora of races, on the most part circuit races, at the beginning of the season, which peter out later in the year), which doesn’t necessarily help with your fitness or your bank balance!

British Cycling National Road Race Championships 2015

BC National Road Race Championships 2015 – Image ©www.chrismaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc

So, what do you need to think about?

Time you have available

If you are at school, college, work or have kids, you will have other commitments other than riding your bike.  That also means that you are likely to have a finite number of holidays available too – so think about what you intend to do in those holidays, and how many you are prepared to spend at bike races (everybody needs a break from work otherwise you get burn out).

You also need to think about how many hours a week you can dedicate to riding a bike – if you have a training plan that involves 20 hours a week on the bike, is it reasonable to think that you can achieve that?  Or is 6 hours a week more likely?  You can still achieve results on the latter, you just have to make sure that you are doing quality training.

Matrix Fitness GP 2015 | Motherwell - Round 2

Matrix Fitness GP 2015 | Motherwell – Round 2 – Image ©www.chrismaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc

Cost of racing

Every time you race, you pay an entry fee.  If you are keen to do more road races than anything else, these tend to be more expensive due to the nature of the infrastructure required for the race to go ahead.  If you are likely to be tight on cash (which most people are), and you have to cover the costs of your own entry fee, decide in advance which races  you intend to target (the cost of races disappears once the event has happened but if you earmark £30 for each National Series event, and £20 – £25 for every other event, you won’t be far off), how much you will need to spend to get there (including travelling, accommodation and food) and make those events your “target events”, you will go some way to making sure you budget for them accordingly.

Once you’ve earmarked how much it is going to cost you to get to the most important events in your calendar, then work backwards based on how much cash you think you are going to have available and look at local events first, then further afield.  Remember, you don’t have to enter all women’s races if there isn’t one available.  You can enter men’s events, but you have to be pretty quick because they fill up rather fast.

Women's Tour De Yorkshire 2015 - ©www.chrismaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc

Women’s Tour De Yorkshire 2015 – ©www.chrismaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc

Your Location

If you live in a region where there isn’t much racing available for women, you have two choices: you either do something about it (by persuading organisers of men’s events to host a women’s race at the same time) or you have to travel.  Most people have to travel at some point because races tend to be in the middle of nowhere.  If you don’t have access to a car, the likelihood is that you will struggle to get to races unless you team up with someone else to get there or you get there using public transport, which might involve a stay over.  If you’re not overly keen on those two options, you will need to look at the racing on offer in your locality and amend your season’s objectives accordingly.

Cheshire Classic 2015 - BC Women's Road Series Rnd 2

Cheshire Classic 2015 – BC Women’s Road Series Rnd2 – Image ©www.chrismaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc

Do you need to be on a team?

The short answer is “no”.  However, some riders prefer to be on a team, so it’s each to their own.  But, having said that, if you do want to be on a sponsored team, and you are considering applying to teams, make sure that you are honest with yourself about what you can give.  Being on a team is a privileged position to be in, especially those where it includes the provision of clothing and equipment.  You need to ensure that you can do justice to yourself and your potential sponsors before applying.  You also need to think about the commitment level (see above) as if you’re limited on the number of holidays that you have, only you will know whether riding every Tour Series or driving the length of the country for National Series races is the best use of your time.

Notwithstanding the above, Tanya Griffiths wrote an article for us last year about applying for a team place, which you can access here.

Alexandra Women's Tour Of The Reservoir 2015 - Women's Tour Seri

Alexandra Women’s Tour Of The Reservoir 2015 – Image ©www.ChrisMaher.co.uk / CyclingShorts.cc

Perspective is important

Ultimately, the majority of racing cyclists in this country participate because it’s their hobby.  That means it’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable (although it is hard work too).  Focus on what you want to achieve, make sure your objectives or goals are SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) and just enjoy riding your bike.

If you do decide to go ahead with applying to sponsored teams next season, we wish you the very best of luck and hope that everything works out for you.

 

Check out Heathers previous guides:

Race Tactics – It’s More Than Just A Lead Out

 

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

 

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