Girls take on the Schools Cycling Championships
This week I had the opportunity to watch women’s racing at its grass roots.
Trying a sport at school has to be as grass-roots as it gets, and Cycling Victoria run a schools championship series, in which students that want to try racing can compete without a licence. I’ve gotta say, Cycling Vic have done a great job with this initiative. Cycling Vic have tried to remove as many barriers to the sport as possible – they rock up with entire trailer load of racing bikes, so the kids don’t need to have one (or ride on a heavy mountain bike), they don’t need a licence and it’s conducted in safe off-road facilities. It is one of the few opportunities available for kids to try the sport, without investing in all the gear. And up for grabs was not only medals for 1st, 2nd and 3rd, but a winners jersey for every 1st place-getter.
Apart from the miserable weather, the most disappointing part of the day was the lack of girls racing. Out of the 128 starters, only 15 were girls. It makes we want to ask why? At this level it certainly isn’t about lack of support or minimum wage issues or unequal prize money. Is the lack of role models? Is it a self image issue? – I’m not going to look good in lycra! Is it a peer pressure issue: that’s not what the cool girls do! Is it perceived as too dangerous for girls?
One explanation is that racing is regarded by parents, teachers and students as a male sport, and this is reinforced by the lack of media coverage of women’s racing. Lack of media coverage is one of those chicken or the egg situation’s – is there no coverage due to lack of interest? Or is there no interest due to lack of coverage? Either way it is time to break the cycle, no pun intended.
If we can demonstrate a real interest in women’s cycling in the mainstream media, then maybe we can increase the amount of coverage it receives and then maybe we can spark the interest of more young girls to have a go at all the excellent grass roots events, such as the schools cycling championships. And in the long term, that has to be good for all of us.
This is something we have been trying to tackle by publishing mainstream items in our Click List, and our news wrap up. We know the media tracks your clicks, so when you see a link to a news item about women’s racing, you know what to do: Click the link, and make comments, click like, Facebook it, tweet it, like it!
The girls that did race had a ball. Girls that I met included girls that have come from mountain biking, triathalon, had older siblings that raced, knew someone else at school who raced or parents and teachers that had encouraged them just to have a go.
The conditions were tough, not the ideal introduction to racing, but it can only get better! Whilst the younger grades went off first and avoided the rain, intermittent showers meant that when older girls began their race, they had to contend with a wet circuit.
The J13 racing and novice categories were combined, and it was a close race between Lillianne McClimont and Shanelle Freeman. These two girls have been racing each other all season, but this time, Shanelle got the better over the line.
Tiana Mumford, following her older brother into the sport, took the opportunity to try racing in the Novice category against Monique Lalande. Her older brother gave her plenty of tips & encouragement, and perhaps that made the difference over the line.
The J15 Novice Girls and the J17 Novice Girls were sent out together, and the field split early, as it does when you have a wide variety of abilities. The J17 girls came home strongly with Lucy Pearce leading the way, followed by Ella Cehun and in third place Emily Greco.
The J15 Novice category had Olivia Weston finish strongly over the line, followed by Annie Thomas and in 3rd place Tara Ziemer.
By the time the J17 & J19 racing categories had started, the weather had turned more miserable, and the girls were getting keen not only to race, but more importantly to finish so they could go home and warm up. There was an early attack from the J17 girls, and the J19 girls (who are studying VCE this year, so who has time to train?), where left behind early on. Birthday girl Jordyn Hassett, topped of her day coming in 1st, followed by Chloe Baggs & Madison Fitzgerald. In the J19 category, the fight for 1st and 2nd was on between Grace Fryer & Bridgette Thomas, with Grace able to pull away and win the category.
All the girls that finished in a top 3 position, now progress through the state final, which will be held in Geelong in October. Well done girls, it’s great to see you on your cycling journey, wherever that journey takes you!
If you think you would like to compete next year, or know someone who would, all the information you need can be found on the Cycling Victoria website. If your school isn’t involved in the program, then suggest it to your PE teacher, and see if the school will support you!