"From Hand-Ups to Handshakes: Why More Women Need to Race Cyclocross"

We've had some fantastic numbers within our women's categories so far for the 2013 CO Cyclo-cross scene. Larry Grossman posted this pic to facebook from the Louisville (Bowl of Death) Cat 4 race last Saturday. Will this momentum continue for road season? And why are we still so far behind in comparison to women participating in marathons and triathlons?

Check out this great piece from The Competitive Cyclist, written by Dena Eaton, who addresses this very topic. (Nov. 18th)

As someone who’s been involved in the cycling industry, in one way or another, for the better part of 24 years, I’ve heard over and over again that women are not as competitive as men. And while it pains me to hear it, after attempting to start a women’s cycling magazine, and also being party to several surveys aimed at getting more women to ride, I actually feel the weight in the words.


But is it that women aren’t inherently competitive, or is it that they just don’t compete in cycling? If you take a look at triathlon participation, for example, women are routinely 30% of the field. The percentage of women who run marathons is even a bit higher. So, the question begs to be asked, “What’s the difference between triathlon and cycling?


In its own way, triathlon is all about the finishers, not just the first to cross the finish line. In fact, during long course races, the last few finishers that clawed their way to meet the 17-hour cut-off often get the greatest applause. When was the last time you saw anyone cheering for the sag wagon in a road race? When was the last time you were handed a “finisher’s medal” at the end of a Sunday criterium series? So, maybe it’s not that women aren’t competitive, maybe it’s just that they’d rather compete in an atmosphere that’s both supportive and non-exclusive."

*Read the rest of Dena Eaton's article and tell me what you think! Do you agree? Disagree? What about her marathon/triathlon theory? I'm also curious to see what the ladies vs. the gentlemen think. But if you comment, please (as Ms. Eaton writes), "...keep it classy."

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19 Comments

It's never too late!

There is a real and perceived "barrier" in cross – the technique is intimidating to beginners, men and women. So ladies, here's a cure, find people who are willing to teach you. Don't be scared. I learned cross when I was 36. It's never too late to crack that nut. I am happy to help. I'm doing a rolling Boulder Cycle Sport clinic this Sunday. 9:30-12, leaving from West VBP parking lot. I would love to see the numbers grow...and by the way, women are just as competitive as men. Mtn or Cross bike will work. No bottle cages. Come ride this supportive, informative ride. Men and women are welcome.

I think Dena and her article

I think Dena and her article may be onto something. Last summer I did a local sprint tri and also a small 5k at my friend's begging, and the atmosphere was very very very different than most of the cycling events I've done (especially the road/cross disciplines). Definitely a better reception for those that were not leading the pack. A lot of my runner friends do events for the finisher medals, which is an added bonus. Rarely do cycling events offer any sort of finisher's perk (though I must admit I probably would've been more inclined to finish the Laramie Enduro this year if I had a shiny cheap medal waiting for me... incentives play into the mental game sometimes).

I'm a super competitive person, so racing and riding my bike go hand in hand. I wouldn't just ride my bike around for the heck of it, which explains why I started racing a month after buying a mountain bike. However, being a competitive female isn't always looked upon as the best thing by other females in my experience. So I'm sure the competitiveness can scare away females that want everyone to feel like they're winners at a race.

I hate to think that women need to be coddled more to do things, but maybe it is really true.

CX is such a unique an difficult discipline...

Thanks for the article 303....relatively speaking, anyone (men and women) can run a marathon or do a tri. Cross is much more difficult and requires an entirely different skill set to accomplish. To me, CX is the purest form of suffering in sport and competition, it takes a rare bird to stick to it long term......from an announcing standpoint, this is why I try to acknowledge EVERY racer during the race, it's a brutal game we play. CX has all of us on the brink of saying "no mas" once we get past the first 15 seconds of racing until the finish. What individuals must overcome mentally and physically are something you can not describe to anyone who has not participated in the war of Cyclocross racing. My personal opinion is that if you are in the game for the applause at the finish line rather than the self gratification of accomplishing something very difficult, against friends and other racers, many times in impossible conditions, you may be in the wrong game. The growing number of entry level women the past two season has been incredible. I love to see it and I try to make it a positive experience for these ladies anyway I can while working. The key is that everyone have fun, and of course suffer some, and this hopefully will continue to grow the sport. I think we all need to lighten up some from the competitive side of things and keep it social and FUN, this will grow the sport on all fronts for men and women alike.

Cross isn't even the hardest

Cross isn't even the hardest cycling discipline, darn sure not the most difficult sport. Sure, anyone can run a marathon, but not necessarily very fast. In that regard, anyone can race cross, too. Just not fast.

Try doing a sub 1;15 kilo (slow by elite standards, but still freakishly painful) or do a 60 lap Madison. Yeah, it's over in half the time of the typical cross race, but it hurts way more.

Try rugby, or boxing, or combatives, or powerlifting, or whatever... all more difficult/ painful than cross, if done at a high level.

I think what LG meant to say

I think what LG meant to say (or should have) is that for as hard as cross is, it's the most fun. Most really hard sports are a big challenge but not much fun. I did an Ironman once, big challenge - very rewarding, but not fun.

Cross, while hard and challenging, is just plain fun.

Participation Sport

I am surprised this wasn't mentioned. Tri's and marathons are participation sports. Yes it technically is a race but the atmosphere is much more participatory then an actual race. It is easy for women to track their progress with swim, bike, run splits etc. This is all but impossible in cyclocross even if it is the same course year to year. The athletic ability is also far less then for CX. There are sections in these courses that I know multiple women that literally just plain wouldn't ride the section because they are too scared. I know that they can run/walk it but I understand why some of them are scared to try. I think it is great that more women are out racing. My wife just got upgraded to a Cat 3 in her second season and we have a great time racing.

I'm not sure how to make the race more of a participatory atmosphere. Probably the only way to do that is for the Cat4 women to have the course to themselves. Then the people just learning or scared to ride sections don't have the lead of the Cat 3's passing them within 2 laps. They are in the heat of a race at that point and I would be surprised if they weren't yelling "leader, leader!!" as they come up on them. That can be intimidating for someone just starting.

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