“I think the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
– Susan B. Anthony, 1896
A lot of time has passed since we busted out of our corsets, dropped the butter churn and said “fuck this noise, I’m going for a bike ride.” Even still, I probably don’t have to tell you that if you google “fast women” you don’t get much information on female athletes. But at a time when local races are being cancelled willy-nilly, and road racing seems to be suffering a bit of a meltdown, I am becoming more and more certain that women may be the key to pulling this sport out of the proverbial shitter.
Two homegrown girls – namely Leah Kirchmann and Karlee Gendron – are doing us proud and kicking tail right now in the Big Show. Karlee races for Team Trek Red Truck and Leah for Colavita/Forno D’Asolo. Check out their blogs (click on their names for linkages) for a seriously cool look inside the kind of racing the rest of us only dream of doing. These local girls are, unequivocally, The Shit.
That’s Karlee on the right. Next time she’ll be in the middle – and probably at the Olympics.
I am also pretty excited about doing some riding with Sarah Kirby, who moved here recently from B.C. and has a pretty impressive track record. Literally. She did high-level track racing, which I think is possibly one of the coolest things ever.
I think we’re going to drag Charlene out too, the lovely Mrs. G., who was positively exploding with excitement after her very first road race, the TTT a week or so ago. I saw her the other night and she was still grinning from ear-to-ear about it, which was awesome. She has some serious roadie potential, so a girls’ ride is definitely in the works, complete with post-ride patio beers. Hopefully Sarah will hold a table for us.
Most, if not all of the women I ride and race with are on the business end of forty – Nettie, Rennie, Esther, Bonnie, Sue, Michelle, Kim, Ruth… but thankfully cycling is one of those sports where maturity and experience can be an advantage. Women, like the amazing Jeannie Longo, are kicking ass well into their 50’s, when they are expected to be doing little more than scrapbooking and suffering through hot flashes – which they probably do in between ass kickings. I wonder what kind of reception Longo gets when she walks into an unfamiliar bike shop. Oh to be a fly on that wall.
We are still very much a minority in our sport, but that can change – there is tons of interest, talent and potential here, in all shapes, sizes and ages, from serious racers to recreational riders. Here’s to you, ladies. I hope one day if I google “fast women”, instead of T&A, I’ll see you grinning from ear-to-ear on your bike. In the meantime, I’ll see you on the road.