British Cycling certainly encouraged us, but with half of the GBTx team coached by Rich being women, Craig’s involvement with youth development and 3 of the 4 of us having daughters involved in sport, we didn’t take much persuading.
Experience told us women’s racing was commonly an afterthought, often being the last race on the card and thrown in with the 4th category men. It might be a bit of chicken and egg, but we’d sometimes seen 3 women registered on line and 2 more turn to sign on for a race only to discover they have widely different skill and fitness levels meaning the race has degenerated in to a circuit based time trial. Keen not to repeat this, we thought we’d try and establish some basics.
2. Like all of our events, we wanted it to be friendly, informal and well run. It’s our objective to help rather than hide behind officialdom. This means keeping our events relatively small so we can speak to everybody. Hopefully this makes accessing bike racing less stressy if a rider is new to it or has turned up on their own.
3. We wanted a great facility and Stourport provides a good circuit with a good HQ with modern changing facilities, signing on area, access to decent tea, coffee and parking. It’s also pretty safe and secure with friendly staff.
4. We tried to make it good value. Out of the £6 we charged (£6.70 if you did it online with the 70p going to BC), half of that goes to British Cycling as a levy. Once the Commissaires, track hire and prizes are paid for breaking even becomes pretty marginal.
Not rocket surgery is it? But what have we learnt from the experience? We got some (admittedly informal) feedback from the riders by, you know, speaking to them.
1. Women only races work and attract more riders irrespective of licence category. There were some takers for the free entry into the 4th Cat race (the last on the card) but not many and decreasingly so as the series went on.
2. Putting the women’s race on first works for the reason we hoped it would. We had 25 riders on the line for the last race of the series as word spread - more than we’ve seen in most summer races.
3. Riders didn’t seem to be motivated by the (admittedly crap) prizes but were interested in accumulating BC points (at least some of them were).
4. The women’s racing was of high quality and competitive but had a collaborative element to it with riders working together when dropped from the bunch. It was clear from our Twitter feed that a good number of new friendships had sprung up during the event. I hope this doesn’t sound patronising; it’s just what we saw.
5. The no frills/low key approach seems to work. The women seem to want to get on with their racing rather than have a big fuss made about it and would generally sooner not have ‘crowds’.
6. Riders would like their finishing positions even if they are outside the top 10 (point scoring) places.
7. The 4th Cat only race attracted the biggest fields (50 riders) with the E/1/2/3 having circa 20 each week. The Youth racing was pretty well supported.
8. The consecutive weekly series format works, many of the same riders coming back each Saturday of the four to race.
9. We were fortunate to have the Boom Cycling team along who brought half a dozen riders to each event. We need to find a way of contacting, engaging and encouraging more women’s teams or groups from clubs to come along in the future. Boom made a big difference to the event.
1. Better line judging. A video camera supplemented with judges equipped with pen and paper works okay but a fool proof electronic system would be better. Everybody, irrespective of position, would get a finishing place and time and it would let us do a ‘fastest lap’ competition.
2. A series entry (i.e. the ability to enter all four events in one 'on-line hit') and a team prize would be useful.
3. Some colour coded numbers would help, particularly with the youth racing where there are four races on the circuit at the same time.
4. It would be good to have a series sponsor to relieve some of the financial pressure!
Rider feedback was generally good (from both the men and women) but we need constructive criticism, what else would riders like to see? What could we do better? Please tell us. In particular, is there a demand for coaching in a ‘race’ environment?
Finally, we loved putting the racing on, the plan is to do it again next year on the 17th, 24th, 31st January and 7th Feb 2015.
Big thanks to all those who supported us, most particularly the riders but also Brian from Raleigh, Pez for the amazing pictures, the staff at Stourport, the Comms and the volunteers who helped out.