Boosting Women’s Particiation Through the NSW TTT Champs

So nice to see trees instead of buildings on the side of the road.

So nice to see trees instead of buildings on the side of the road.

The NSW Team Time Trial: One of the biggest events of the year for building pride amongst local road clubs, and one of the best events for pulling together a group of people interested in working as a group in a safe and not-so-scary race environment. This year’s event was held out at Nowra airport on Sunday. The course was basically an out and back along a fairly straight tree-lined road. There were a couple of rises people called ‘hills’ and a strong wind that meant you could give it a real nudge on the front of your group before tucking in for some recovery. Repeat.

Rain during the warm up meant everyone got in nice and close.

Rain during the warm up meant everyone got in nice and close.

The Elite Women's pode.

The Elite Women’s pode.

This is a race that's all about the team.

This is a race that’s all about the team.

My club, Sydney Uni Velo, had four women’s teams in the mix. Two got podiums, which is a credit to the strong riding all 14 girls present have been doing together throughout the year. I mention the results because people like to make a fuss of these things, but I think what’s more important is to recognise the way that events like this build women’s participation more broadly. The fact that there were only three female teams in the Elite category points toward what a long way there is to go in this area, while the much higher levels of participation in the Masters categories highlights how much fussing over results can often kill women’s participation more than it builds it.

Our team (L-R): Me, Rosie Stewart, Erica Thornton.

Our team (L-R): Me, Rosie Stewart, Erica Thornton.

My own team included Sydney Uni students, Roise Stewart and Erica Thornton. Amber Jenkins was our fourth rider who willed us on from home with a chest infection. With mixed abilities in any team in this race, the most important thing is to communicate clearly with each other and work well as a group – which leads to the biggest outcomes on the personal satisfaction front as well. Having never ridden together prior to this race, this was even more important  as we learned about each other’s strengths on the bike as we ticked off the distance.

While there are no heroes, the suitcase of courage award for Sunday goes to Rosie. She rode strongly despite a cold, but clipped a wheel and had an ugly lie down on the tarmac about 15kms into the 40km race. After a small break we got Rosie on her bike again deciding that it was better to pedal slowly while choosing whether or not to go on. At least that way you’re still moving forwards.

We ticked along gently at first and when Rosie was ready we picked up the speed bit by bit. Erica set a solid tempo hauling us along whenever she was on the front, and I welcomed the wind as a chance to dig a little deeper whenever anyone was tucked in behind.

Virginia Woods, Rebecca Hay, Tegan Cox and Anne Lynam (missing from this photo with an untimely flat tyre) rode strong in Masters, but would have podiumed in Elite as well.

Virginia Woods, Rebecca Hay, Tegan Cox and Anne Lynam (missing from this photo with an untimely flat tyre) rode strong in Masters, but would have podiumed in Elite as well.

I felt really proud of our group for sticking together and coming home strong. But more than that, I enjoyed seeing everyone from all four groups after the race – hearing their stories and seeing the happy-smashedness that rocks your body after giving it your all. I missed the way I experience this feeling after a tough mountain bike race, but am enjoying using these events as a different form of training – especially over winter while a lot of trails have been quite wet.

We didn't get to hold on to the Elite Men's medals we were given for the podium, but are assured that women's ones will come in the mail.

We didn’t get to hold on to the Elite Men’s medals we were given for the podium, but are assured that women’s ones will come in the mail.

So we took some quick photos and handed them over to the men's pode instead. With limited volunteers running events like this I'd rather a well-marshalled course than some metal on a string in any case.

So we took some quick photos and handed them over to the men’s pode instead. With limited volunteers running events like this I’d rather a well-marshalled course than some metal on a string in any case.

A lot of Sydney cycling clubs are working hard at building women’s participation through a formalised race team structure this year. But what excites me more than the racing is how many more women are out on bikes, building confidence, and discovering new things every time they get on a bike. What I like most about this event is it gives people a goal to work for. This builds friendships made through cycling that make picking the next event about more than the racing as well. Some revelatory suffering out on the course helps in this regard as well.

Photos from Super Supporters Taliya Cikoja and Ian Schmidt – thanks so much for your help throughout the day, I hope we can do the reverse at another event coming up. Thank you to Kelvin Rundle for the tireless energy you put into helping this team, and the Sydney Uni Velo Club for your confidence and support as well.

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