Men, Women and Children
Well hello there. Long time no see. If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been (and even if you haven’t), let me tell you: I have not been in Belgium watching bike races, or spending long, passionate days in the sack with Mario Cippolini. And I certainly wasn’t – as was suggested by Michael from Portland – in Southern California doing the Stagecoach 400 (although I am flattered you think I am crazy enough to do it).
Where I have been, however, is almost as good. Maybe even gooder. Where I have mostly been is on my bike. Between training, racing, commuting and coaching Kids of Mud, I am spending almost as much time in the saddle these days as Thomas Voekler spends on his hair.After my impassioned appeal to women everywhere (or at least in my immediate vicinity) to get out there and race some bikes, it became apparent my motivational skills could use some work. Here are the gender statistics from Cat 4 of the first road race of the year, which happened mere days after my rally cry.
That’s me in the red. It’s a wonder even I showed up. The closest thing to a woman they had in Cat 3 was a guy with a ponytail named Perry.
While my efforts may have been ineffective on the fairer sex, I did manage to convince some of the equally fair yet opposite sex to come out and race. Maybe they thought there would be chicks there. Scott, Mark and I crammed into Ben’s party van – pausing momentarily to fondle and admire his impressive rack.
Considering I wasn’t in the GC and therefore ineligible for kisses from the podium girls, my plan was to ride to lose. Or rather, burn the shit out of my legs through a series of early attacks, fruitless bridging, and whatever long pulls I could muster – leaving me with absolutely nothing left by the end of the race. If this seems like a pathetically predictable excuse for a poor result, it totally is. But if there is any proof of the success of my plan, it is this:That’s Scott soft-pedaling in after being part of a lead out train to the finish. Note his relaxed body position and pleasant smile. Behind him, it may look like I am smiling, but make no mistake, I am not. That expression on my face is total agony as every muscle in both legs cramp simultaneously. It’s nice to see Stefan out with his camera again, catching these magical moments.
Moments before, the race had finished in dramatic fashion.That’s 15 year-old Aaron Carter schooling us grown-ups in the art of bicycle racing. So at least half of the “women and children first” protocol was observed. I guess there weren’t many sailors in the group.
So where did all the women go? I decided if they wouldn’t come to me, I would go to them. A week after the race I signed up for a “Chicks Only” ride in celebration of Women’s Ride Day. It’s no secret how I feel about gender-segregated cycling events, but I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet and talk to other women who love to ride. Turns out there are plenty of us.
It was a very relaxed, no-drop ride and included women from all walks of life, each with their own experiences and stories to tell. Some had never ridden in a group before and it was great to share tips and offer encouragement as we rode together. I was especially thrilled to meet Julie, who walked up to me right at the start of the ride and informed me she had spent the last two weeks reading this blog from beginning to end (or end to beginning, as she explained). In spite of her terrible taste in literature, she was lovely and it felt like we were old friends.
If nothing else, the women’s ride helped restore a sense of equilibrium – the gender pendulum swinging fully in the opposite direction, like so:James was our token sherpa man-stud, equipped to handle any mechanical misfortune we might encounter on our journey.
According to my random and completely inconclusive research, there are a number of reasons women don’t seem to come out to road races – intimidation, lack of experience, and insufficient equipment among them. But the big one, of course, is children. We take time off to give birth, then spend the next 18 (or more) years teaching, feeding, wiping, funding, encouraging and chauffeuring them, with little to no regard for our own bodies, health or pleasure.
Of course this phenomenon extends well beyond cycling and is epidemic in all sports – robbing the world, at least temporarily, of some of our greatest athletes in the prime of their lives. My solution? For every child a woman gives birth to, she should be given an ass-kicking new bike – or tennis racket, golf clubs, hockey stick or treadmill. And better yet, some time to actually use it.
I’m lucky. I get to ride with some pretty awesome people – both men and women. When it comes to riding, we care way more about carbon fibre than chromosomes. I also have a patient and supportive family who understand that if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. And what makes this Mama happy is racing her bike.
We Mama’s who race bikes are weird though.
And I think the photo count of me “from the rear” over the lifetime of your blog is up to about 5 now …. not that I’m counting. 😉
Nice read W.C.C.
There was a far better shot of you and Vanessa riding, which offered a couple of fine examples of girl butt. You’re welcome ladies. Sorry fellas.
Women are riding MTB. At least 15 showed up to race at Grand Beach this past Sunday. That is not counting KOM racers. However there were 90 male racers that showed up Sunday as well… 6:1 ratio.
Better than road but still not great representation of the women who cycle.
PS. Mountain biking is the superior form of cycling FYI. 😉
Yes, I saw the results! That’s awesome. Still not a great ratio, but we have to start somewhere. Cross is better too. This was the first road race and I know more will come out. In the meantime I will continue to work on my powers of persuasion.
As for which is the superior form of cycling, I’m afraid we will have to agree to disagree. : )
Sshhh… Ben’s sensitive about his rack.
(ps… though I’d love to take some credit, I was in fact not at all part of any leadout train. Full credit should go to Mark and Ben, who fried themselves at the front for Danny in vain hopes of upsetting the Youth’s domination. Although, as you can tell, I was quite pleased with myself for orchestrating that and then avoiding spending any time in the pain cave entirely!)
Agree to disagree?
We will have to see you at a mountain bike race before you form this opinion.
See you this evening…on a mountain bike.
I am clicking the non-existent LIKE button on this comment G. 🙂
Adam and Andrea, you are both right. Which is to say, cyclocross is the superior form of cycling.
That’s like saying the sky is blue. Or that Fort Garry Dark tastes soapy.
Have been reading your blog for several weeks now and you certainly motivated me to change up some of my bike training. Based on your enthusiasm for cycling I swallowed my pride, bit the bullet and tried a FOG ride.
Everyone was very nice, friendly and helpful and I enjoyed my ride tremendously. Even when I missed the draft and found myself by myself. When I finally caught up most everyone was off for additional kilometers. Not me. Nicely an extremely fit rider rode back with me. I swear he was only pedaling with the big toe on his right foot but he still kicked me. A great guy on a Cervelo named Dave. Thanks Dave.
Although riding in a group was sort of a “goal” of mine, I think your continuous encouraging of women to race more encouraged this Clyde to try something new. Thanks for that!! BTW – great, great blog!
That is awesome Grant! You sure don’t mess around. If riding with FOG was your first group ride you get automatic badass status in my books. I’m really glad your experience was a good one!
Keep on riding – you’ll just get fitter and faster. You’ll be keeping up with Cervelo Dave in no time!
If, by bad ass, you mean extra-gigantic, walking door size sadly slow male cyclist in his fifties – then YES I resemble that remark.
Well I would almost be tempted to come out to a road race with you but would probably come in DFL if not a day later than everyone else. It was even more Fun to meet you at the Women’s Ride this past Sat. What a hoot. I agree with you – I don’t get the need for women to have their own special things either…oh except that maybe I can’t keep up to the guys (yet). Be on the lookout for my Users’ Guide to CycleChic blog to be posted sometime soon. It includes all the new cycling terms I didn’t know before and some that I’m still trying to figure out. See ya out there!
I sure hope to see you out, it seems we know all the same people and all those people love to ride! Keep up the great work – you’re already fit and with legs like yours you’re bound to be a natural!
I look forward to seeing the Users Guide!
Road, mtb or cross…it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re riding. The trick is to find the resources (both time and money) to enjoy them all, as they we’re all created to be enjoyable; which they are. I love biking. The more you submerse yourself in the culture, the more people you find that have submersed themselves in the culture. I met a guy this week who has ten bikes, and he’s still building and collecting. Nothing too fancy, but all cool and interesting. I think it was Hal who told me the formula for how many bikes you should own was (n+1).
Hal is right. That is the correct number of bikes you should own.
And you’re absolutely right too Terry. Mountain, road, cross – racing or riding – men or women – who cares? There is something out there for everyone. Cycling is just plain awesome.
Sniff… I love you guys.
CycleChick- had I known about the women’s ride I’d have been there! My challenge to participating is that I never hear about stuff in time to accomodate events into my life, which is exactly as you described above.
Years ago I joined a tri club so I could meet people to ride with because I got sick of riding alone and anyone I knew was into mtn biking. (Having lived in the actual mountains, I couldn’t be too enthoused to do that here -sorry Manitoba). So tri-geek it was, and though I raced and had fun, I don’t have time for three sports, and am now back to my original one. AND I’m still kinda lacking in the roadie-friend dept.
Given I’m fully employed I can’t be annoying and hang out in bike shops anymore like I used to… and am not in a club or whatever, I’m open to advice on being more informed about cycling with other humans.
P.S. Your blog entry on the energy bars was fab. Merci.
Hi Ciara. Thanks for your note and glad you liked the hippy bars! There are lots of ways to get involved with other roadies. We love company. Most of the bike shops have clubs you can join in order to participate in club rides (they all do road and mtb rides). You can also join the facebook page of the group I ride with. We ride Tuesday and Thursday mornings, starting at 5:45am from Cambridge and Wellington. There are often posts there about weekend rides too! Hope to see you out.
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