"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

this is exactly the argument

this is exactly the argument for a "firstimer" cat in CX (for both men and women) open only to riders competing in their first 3 races ever - we used to run these in the Midwest and I believe OBRA does something similar, but with so many categories already running here I don't see any possibility to add it.

Highly doubtful "just plain

Highly doubtful "just plain wouldn't ride the section because they are too scared".

Their isn't a single section of a cross course that causes "fear". You couldn't make the front range courses less fearful if that was an issue.

I want an example if you have one.

MTB downhill has some super challenging stuff that beginners might be "scared". Pros crash hard at those courses.

I notice the devils advocate

I notice the devils advocate name but here you go.
Flatirons off camber, cx of north downhill after the start, bowl of death off camber downhill S, Xilinx log and dip, Frisco with the snow, last year states course with the jumps in it, castle rock mud pit, boulder cup downhill sections by the stairs, Westminster downhill especially in wet.
All of these can be really intimidating for people and it is exacerbated if it is wet.

agreed. I am ashamed to admit

agreed. I am ashamed to admit this but I actually DNS / dropped out of Flatirons after 1 lap of preride. One or 2 corners I could handle, but 80% of the course? No way I have the courage or skills for that. Coupled with very limited passing opportunities and big fields meant I was too afraid of both crashing and ruining someone else's race with my flailing.

Too Scared...

I have been "too scared." There have been several races where I've looked at something and thought, "Nope. No. No way. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. No thanks." Initially scared to ride it. Standing there at the feature pondering my immediate death. Then a woman will zip right past me, and nail it. Or she may fall. Regardless, I'll end up riding it anyway. Sienna Lake comes to mind. I remember pre-riding the course last year, getting to the ditch and yelling, "You GUYS! COME ON!"

The beauty of cross (and mtb) is that I'm encouraged to try things on my bike with other women that I would never try on my own. And during races, I'm often heckled into stepping out of my comfort zone. Also what I love about cross in particular. You have to find the right group of women who will show you the ropes. And the right group of men who will give guidance should you ASK, but not just unwarranted advice laced with arrogance.

Some of us race because we are competitive. Some of us are there for the social aspect. Some of us race because competition makes us nauseous. Some of us are out there to "ride away our demons" as Handlebar Mustache says. Some of us are doing it to be good examples for our kids. For me, it's a mix of all of these. Cross is just...different than road. When I fall and the woman who passes me yells with encouragement "Get up!! You are still in this race! You are fine!" I believe her. And I comply.

I'm pleased to see so many women who may have once thought they were "too scared" to get out there and pedal as well. See you out there, my sisters.

thank you

I was just pointed to this link. First, thank you for reposting it. Second, thank you for all the comments. i am glad to see so many women willing to try 'cross. I have a few more articles about women and racing...stay tuned to Competitive Cyclist's Learn Page.

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