ACA Womens Bicycle Racing Mentoring Interview

We recently ran the ACA press release about the women's mentoring program. We thought we should ask one of the mentors a few questions about the program.

[303Cycling] Tell us about the mentoring program.
[Renee Eastman] The Women’s Mentoring Program is an initiative by the American Cycling Association to aid in the development of women cyclists during that transition from rider to racer. Entering those first few races is both intimidating and nerve wracking for almost anyone who decides to start racing. For this reason, the ACA has decided to designate several races each year as mentoring races, in order to ease this transition for women new to racing in several Category 4 criterium events.

In each mentoring race one or two experienced Category 1 and 2 women riders are available prior to the race, during the race, and after the race to answer questions, guide in tactics and skills, and provide an encouraging environment for riders to learn the new skills of racing. During these races the experienced racers ride along with the Category 4 racers as “mentors” and guide the women, during the races, on skills, such as, pack riding, taking turns at speed, and drafting. These mentors are also available after the race to answer questions and provide positive feedback for the new racers.

[303Cycling] What is the goal of the program?
[Renee Eastman] Our goal with this program is to provide an open, encouraging, learning environment for women who are interested in trying racing for the first time and for those who want to progress in their racing and learn more skills.

[303Cycling] How do you sign up and what is the fee?
[Renee Eastman] There are currently 3 ACA criterium races designated as mentoring races.

Athletes that want to participate in the mentoring program need only to register for the Cat 4 Women’s race as they would normally. There is a race registration fee, but there is no extra fee for the mentoring program. This is a free program offered by the ACA.

[303Cycling] What is your cycling background and how did you get involved?
[Renee Eastman] I have been racing bikes for the past 20 years. I started in college and progressed through the ranks over the years. Now I make my living as a professional coach for Carmichael Training Systems. I’ve been coaching since 1995 when I worked with the US Olympic Team.

I got involved with the mentoring program through an initiative by the ACA Women’s Task Force. A few years ago the ACA reached out to the women’s peloton to help figure out how to grow the numbers of women participating in racing. We knew there were a lot of female riders, but it was hard for many of them to either make the leap in to racing or stick with it after the first few attempts. Part of the obstacle for these women was the intimidation factor from not really knowing what to do once they got in the race. The mentoring program was designed to help ease that transition for those riders and basically give them a friendly face in their first few races.

[303Cycling] What level of cyclists are most of the participants in the mentoring program?
[Renee Eastman] The mentoring program is designed for beginner, Cat 4 women. Cat 4 is the entry level racing category. Riders in this category are true beginners and first time racers or those who have just started racing. Categories for racing are based on skill, fitness, and experience. The program also seems to lend itself well to those women preparing for a move up to Cat 3.

[303Cycling] Is there anything you would like to add?
[Renee Eastman] This will be our 3rd year doing the mentoring program. I know I have a lot of fun giving back and helping new riders make that leap into racing as do all of the other mentors who volunteer their time. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from not only participants in the program but also from spouses, friends, and family who have tried previously to get their significant others into racing. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly face out there to show someone the ropes and make things a little easier.

I wish there had a program like this when I started out. It was pretty scary to jump in to that first race. With this program, we’re able to offer a few key entry races for those interested in trying it for the first time. We’ve even had a lot of good feedback from those who are a little more experienced in the Cat 4 field and are getting ready to make the leap up to the next level, Category 3. We’re able to help those women with some skills and tactics they need for that transition to the next level.

I’m really happy to be doing this program along with the help of Jon Tarkington and some of the other great mentors who have volunteered for this program. We hope for continued growth for women’s racing.

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