Women’s Club Forum
For the second year running I went along to a relatively new initiative by Cycling Victoria in the Womens Club Forum. The intention of the forum, among other things, is to share ideas between club representatives to improve the female membership base of clubs, and address issues that some club members find as barriers to the increase in female membership.
Everyone that went along had their own agenda. For some, it was to understand how others have increased their own female member base. For others, it was to understand how to change the attitudes of their members to give women some focus. As the organiser of the Women’s Grand Prix, my agenda was simple: understand what women need, and create something special and tailored specifically for women.
After presenting the inaugural Grand Prix last season, more than ever, it was important to reaffirm those elements of the Grand Prix that women felt were so important in the first place, so as not to lose focus on the end goal.
Special guest presenters in this year’s forum were Liz Hall and Laurie Lovelock from the Hawthorn Cycling Club. Following on from a presentation from the women’s ‘powerhouse’ club, in StKilda Cycling Club at last year’s event was going to be hard to beat. But Liz declared the last 12 months as a success, having pushed membership from a paltry five members in early 2011 to nearly 30.
Success isn’t without failure however, and there have been a few- beginners training rides in the middle of winter didn’t work. Advanced training rides didn’t either. Indoor spin classes and social coffees and lunches are a resounding success! As is providing some focus on ‘challenge’ rides and not just racing.
The result: no team in the Victorian Club Teams Time Trial last season, four teams this season, including a medal!
For me, the key continues to be to provide women with an opportunity to be part of something special- that doesn’t matter if it’s your first time racing, or your five hundredth. It is about giving women an opportunity to be the headine event, giving them an environment within which they can enjoy, learn, and perform their best. And in doing so, show the world how exciting women’s cycling can be.
For all their criticisms, this is one thing that Cycling Victoria have got absolutely right. They have engaged the right people and put the resources into the right areas to create something special. Everyone involved in cycling in Victoria can feel it. There is a groundswell of support for it, and the benefits will extend way beyond club level. If I was a betting man, I’d be looking to put money on Victoria dominating the women’s divisions of all disciplines at national championship level for the next ten years at least.
Rob Carson is the owner of Cykel, and organiser and promoter of the Women’s Grand Prix. He can be found at www.cykelevents.com.au, also @cykelevents on Twitter and Facebook.
The Women’s Grand Prix criterium series will be run during the 2012-13 summer in Victoria, and invites all women, from novices to professionals, including those interstate and overseas to be a part of it.
*Photo – Gavin Wright