By Jaimie Epstein
That celebratory anthem “Girls Just Want to Have Fun — on Their Bikes” now clearly rings even truer than it did two-odd decades ago. And if you won’t take my word for it, you should’ve shown up at the nth-annual1 Women’s Beginning Bicycle Racing Clinic in Central Park on Saturday, June 18, put on by the Radical Media and Comedy Central/New Canaan Cyclery teams.2 Or at A Bicycle Shop the Tuesday before, when the Raddies held a confab to answer every little pre-race question potential participants might have had. (Hordes showed up.)3 Or at Comedy Central’s pre-Maltese follow-up ride for clinic graduates.4
Yes, racing promoters everywhere, take note: If you put it on, they will come. And come they did, from all walks of bicycling life — from a newbie rider who couldn’t figure out how to get a spare tube into her just-purchased bullet-shaped saddle bag (hint: take it out of the box), to a runner who only recently took up cycling, to a woman who wanted to ride in some of the “senior games” and ordered up her first USCF license,5 to a triathlete questioning the time calculus for hill repeats. They came because they promised friends. Because they wanted to get some coaching, learn more about CRCA, get the lowdown on racing. They came because they were looking for gals to ride fast with. Because they were told by guys who had done their own clinic earlier in the season that it was “an unforgettable experience.” Emily6 came because “a few of us made a pact to come.” Lisa came because “my friend wanted to do it and I wanted to support her.” She went on to say that she “has mixed feelings about competition” but discovered that “competition is not so bad, and, really, it is the competition with yourself that counts.” That’s the spirit.7
The race was three laps, and we controlled the pace to the top of Harlem Hill so everyone could feel the thundering horsepower of riding in a big pack — at least for a little while. From there, the fasties took off, going fast enough to make Sarah Sauvayre double-check her HR monitor, and chase groups chased. But whether they were in the fast group or the slow group, somewhere in the middle or somewhere way behind, one thing they all seemed to have experienced in common was the rush of racing. “This blows tris out of the water,” said Erin8, a triathlete, using the perfect metaphor. Lisa again: “I loved it. I got dropped right away, but I have never ridden that fast in my life.” Inga showed up expecting to get dropped on the downhill (her nemesis) and was a wee bit nervous about riding close to so many peeps but ended up feeling like “little Miss Daredevil.” In fact, she said, “I definitely want to race now. I think you’ve created a monster. I am already addicted.”9
Magali, a commuter but otherwise irregular rider, was thrilled to be able to stay with the front group and instinctively gave it up when the time came, reveling in the satisfaction that comes from being a team player: “I managed to take the lead just before the last sprint, which was an incredible experience. Since I can’t sprint, I then let the other bikers finish beautifully.”10 And how did the race finish? The usual mass frenetic attack up Cat’s Paw, and then, in the last hundred yards, Emily “maxed out” and “couldn’t stand to sprint,” but Elaina11 still had gas, although not as much as Martha,12 who came around and won. Way to go! “I didn’t set out thinking there was any chance I could win and in fact am still rather surprised,” Martha said. “I can’t say I had a strategy for the finish, but I previously tried to sprint up that hill, so I just tried it again.” Which just goes to show that practicing your chops does indeed pay off.
The next day, one clinic graduate braved the Prospect Park race and others marshaled at the Harlem crit, several showed up for Maltese a few weeks later and I recognized at least one name on the start list for Union Vale. Yes, the female racers class of ’05 are already a force to contend with. And what about classes to come? All proceeds from the clinic went to the Girls Project, an empowerment program for public-school girls in New York City ages 9 to 12.13 Because ya gotta be tough if ya wanna race your bike, and the sooner you learn it the better. No, really, cause all girls (and boys) need to feel good about themselves and know they can smack down when the spirit moves them. They’re our future!
1 If you know how long this has been going on, that’s more than I do.
2 With the gracious support of Hammer Nutrition, MassageWorks, A Bicycle Shop, Piermont Bicycle Connection, Hincapie Sportswear, Bicycling magazine, New York Sports Clubs, CycleBeads, TEAm Lipton, the Tenafly Bicycle Workshop team and NS Coaching, who provided brains or bodies or booty, for prizes and goody-bag stuffing. (Several riders said they wanted to do the clinic again next year just for the goody bags, so we might have to embed chips in future graduates. –)
3 And Edlin, the manager and a big booster of women’s cycling, handed out chamois cream and water bottles like candy at Halloween.
4 Or was CC scouting on the sly! I mean, how was it that NONE of us Raddies managed to receive the email about that ride, hmmmm?
5 Can we give a great, big shoutout to Jan, who just before the clinic competed in her first races ever and placed first in the TT for her age group in the Long Island Senior Games and second in the 5K TT in the ESG?!!!
6 Who ended up taking the third spot on the podium and taking home a jersey from Hincapie Sportswear and enough Hammer Gel and HEED from Hammer Nutrition to get her to many start lines to come.
7 But of course wanting to win (from time to time) isn’t as heinous as flooding the Hudson with toxic waste from your behemoth of a factory and expecting the government to foot the cleanup bill.
8 A soon-to-be reformed triathlete? She finished in the Top 10.
9 Welcome to the club! I’m sure having finished in the Top 10 will only feed that addiction.
10 And that’s a beautiful thing, no?
11 She went home with a free massage, HEED, Hammer Gel and second place to keep her bouncing for the rest of the day.
12 A pixie-ish-looking gal who asked me — me! — of all people how old is too old to start racing, she got a Pedros pump, a tune-up courtesy of A Bikes, plus the requisite HEED and Hammer Gel.
13 For more information: www.ilcprojects.org.