So, with the number of Premier Calendar races at just 6 events in 2013, you would think that road racing has hit an all-time low. I am glad to say that in the North West we are actually working hard to show that is not the case, and I am pleased to be involved with the inaugural Cycling Development North West Women’s Road Race League next season. It is not unique in that it is the first women’s road race league to exist, not at all, but it is unique in that it gives women in the lower categories an opportunity to race at a competitive level over a reasonable distance.
“How is that different?” I hear you cry. Well, for a start, due to the various costs of organising a road race, and the relatively small numbers of women riders that compete, most road races are open to all categories of women, from Elite to fourth, and many are over a distance in excess of 50 miles. The remaining races that women can compete in are usually circuit races which can last anything from twenty minutes up to an hour, covering a distance of say approximately 20 miles. So, if you’re a fourth or third category rider looking to make a move into road racing for the first time, you could be totally unprepared for what is waiting for you when you get on the line at the road race.
Yes, there is a big difference between finishing a circuit race over 15 to 20 miles and being able to be competitive in a race over more than 50 miles when you’re not used to it. Unfortunately, some women have to travel hundreds of miles to get a ride in a road race, only to get shelled out of the back on the first lap because it is totally different racing on the open road than it is riding around a closed circuit. Worse still are the crashes that can occur because some riders can lose concentration because they are not used to riding in a bunch/riding over such a long distance (compared to your 40 minute circuit race), tiredness and fatigue sets in and you either get shouted at for nearly knocking somebody off or you just get really disheartened because you aren’t as good as you expected to be and you think, “why do I bother?” All the fun is taken out of the race and you forget why you are there in the first place.
The CDNW Women’s Road Race League is only open to second, third and fourth category riders, with the longest race being over 65km (40 miles). The courses being used are not hilly or too technical however they are well-suited for practising your race technique, and are races that will provide the stepping stone up to the longer road races, including the National Series Road Races. There are two main reasons for these races – they assist younger (Junior) riders who are making the move from Youth “A” circuit races on to the road for their first season as a Junior, and they are also to assist women who are new to the sport of competitive cycling (as opposed to sportives, etc).
Unfortunately, women’s cycling will not continue to develop unless there are these “stepping-stones” to help women riders build up their confidence to move on to the next level. I understand that there were over 15,000 women riders on the Breeze rides this year, many of whom may want to take the next step with their cycling “career” but don’t have the confidence or inclination to mix it up with the elite riders at this time. The CDNW women’s races aim to be all-encompassing, where encouragement is the theme of the day.
The road race league events will be held as follows:
#1) 3 March 2013 – Pimbo Industrial Estate – 50km
#2) 17 March 2013 – Nateby/Pilling, Lancashire – 65km
#3) 21 April 2013 – Great Budworth, Cheshire – 65km
#4) 7 July 2013 – Pimbo Industrial Estate – 65km
#5) 1 September 2013 -Nateby/Pilling, Lancashire – 50km
In order to ride the events, it will cost £5 to enter the league itself, with each event being £20 in advance. I have had a number of people telling me that the price is high, however these races are on open roads, with National Escort Group motorbike marshals. The cost of first aid has risen by 100% for next season, and the men’s events will also be the same amount (as opposed to £17.50 plus online entry processing fee this season). I would prefer for people to concentrate on the fact that these are five new races, which are aiming to attract people to competitive road racing, as unfortunately, if the grass roots level doesn’t develop, there won’t be a sport in a few years’ time.
We are still looking for a series sponsor who could help with prizes (for example, most improved rider, best 4th category rider, best 3rd category rider, etc), so if you think you could help with promoting the development of grass roots women’s racing, please get in touch.