“We’re women, we’re different!”
Those words came from my teammate’s mouth when onlookers and course officials yelled “Keep racing!” after riders went down during the Stieda Classic Criterium race. The crash details are irrelevant, bikes will be fixed, people will heal with time and soon it will be a distant memory starting with, ‘Remember that time…’
The moment that sticks is what happened directly after “the crash.” Those of us not involved immediately stopped pedaling and coasted. We slowed, shouted to the volunteers that medics were needed. We were advised that the race was “still on” as we crossed the start/finish line to begin lap 17 of 20. As a remaining group, we decided to pedal the final 3 laps together in solidarity, agreeing if things looked “bad” when we passed the crash site, the race was over. In the end, everyone was ok and we had a small sprint finish. Finishing with full hearts, grateful for our small but mighty women’s racing community.
In the following weeks the incident was replayed and retold many times. To reduce the chance of it happening again, the Women of ERTC (WoERTC) hosted a women’s interclub night to practice crit and cornering skills, building our confidence as not competitors but friends.
Women’s cycling is different. They say cycling is a team sport that is won by individuals. And while I fully agree with this, the fact WoERTC had the largest women’s cat 4/5 start at Velocity Stage Race ever means we’ve won more than just a race and upgrade points. We’ve won personal battles: with self doubt, for equality, and the confidence to do things we didn’t think were possible. We’ve cleaned and dressed fresh road rash. We’ve taught new racers how to ride in a rotating paceline mid-race. We’ve brought tents and a camp stove and fed everyone pasta lunch. We’ve ridden hills for the sole purpose of finishing at the new donut food truck. We’ve shared packing lists, clothing layer recommendations, and duct tape. We take care of each other no matter what team you’re on. Our community and our spirit is the reason that 2017 has had impressive turnout for the Cat 4/5 women’s road events, including record numbers at the very first race of the season. We are blazing a trail for the next generation of female cyclists. So as far as winning goes, there isn’t a podium big enough as we’ve all already won.