ACA Women's Summit - Keynote Speech

Last night the standing room only ACA Women's Summit was inspiring! Much was discussed and much was on the minds of women there. No decisions were made (I don't think) but some focus was decided to create some women's cycling camps (modeled after the junior ACA camps) and to address the category issue that currently promotes women to stay cat 4's for ever. And who can blame them, if 3's only events rarely happen than for many you go from a cat 4 and then jump into the 1-2-3 field. POW and then they leave cycling for another sport.

Sarai Snyder of GirlBikeLove probably had one of the best proposals of the night, get more women on bikes! The core of much of the challenges women cycling faces are their numbers. Get more numbers and those old problems go away.

Keynote from Jennifer Triplett below

Jennifer Triplett

Good Evening!

It's always striking to me how unrecognizable people are outside of their cycling clothing. You look oddly familiar... mind pulling your hair back, sticking a helmet on and covering your face with glasses? Ah! That's it! That's where I know you from!

Thank you all for taking time out your busy schedules to meet tonight in honor of BRAC and our cycling community. Despite having Thanksgiving on the brain and I'm sure a lot of last minute preparations. It's nice to see so many people here in honor of our amazing community.

Tonight I am going to do an introduction of myself, how I was asked to be the keynote speaker, and then focus on community. Specifically, the little steps we can all take to grow from a participation standpoint as well as how we can enhance the values of our community. And lastly, a call to action.

For those who I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet, my name is Jennifer Triplett and I race cat 2 road, cat 1 track, novice mountain and cross. I am relatively new to the front range area, and live in COS. I moved here to remove a fender rain bike from my quiver, train at altitude and let's face it: for love. I am a co-active coach and love to inspire others to live the life of their dreams, what ever that may be.

A little over a month ago, Clint Bickmore, the ACA President and I were formally introduced at the USA Cycling Coaching summit. I told him about my involvement with the WSBA and MVA in Washington and told him I'd love to get involved. He put me in touch Rachel Scott and Susan Adamkovics to see how I could get involved with the upcoming Womens Summit. I also mentioned in passing that I enjoy public speaking, gulp, and well, here I am.

My background is in boxing. However, getting hit in the face lost its appeal over time and I started looking for a new sport. A friend suggested I start commuting to work via bike and sign up for the Seattle to Portland ride. That sparked a beautiful relationship between myself and bikes. I found I enjoyed passing most men and decided to give racing a try. I spent the past 7 years racing in the soggy NW, where despite the weather they have a thriving community of female racers.

When I first started, I explored team options via meet the team rides in the fall and found a group of women who were all new to the sport and wanted to try racing. Starbucks was our sponsor. I thrived in this environment, quickly advancing through the ranks and immediately looked toward for leadership. A friend suggested I run for the Marymoor Velodrome Association board to be a female voice so I did.

Somewhat intimidated by learning a new skill on a bike without brakes, I started track racing my first year and loved it. Even though you're on a bike without brakes, you also only make left hand turns and as it turns out, I can sprint. I found myself wanting to take things to the next level and raced at regional events and found myself that first year at Nationals.

Looking back, I notice a recurring theme for myself: that I'm not afraid to try anything. I recall going to Alpenrose with its concrete 47 degree banking, large and deep fields (with several Olympians in the mix) and figuring, why not? We all start somewhere. That attitude also got me into trouble as I thought jumping in also meant attacking from the gun. Keep in mind there were Olympians in the group... and well, next thing I know I'm being lapped and discouraged. Not knowing what to do, I rolled off the track before the end of the race, started crying and called my mom. She reminded me, Jennifer! Look at where you are! You're brand new and racing against experienced women. Wipe those tears away and jump back in.

Flash forward a few years, which included wins, losses, injuries, and more community involvement. The MVA established a women's development fund, grew field sizes so we actually had to split cat 4 women categories into two per night. We even started a movement for holding a women's madison at the Grand Prix each year and had more womens team then men. We were taking action and made a difference in our community.

Then the unthinkable happened in 2008. My husband died in a tragic rock climbing accident. Life as I knew it was forever changed. And although I stuck around Seattle for 3 years after, I knew it was time to change my environment. Thankfully I had cycling to lean on. Not only from a physical activity but from a community perspective. They were there for me on a deeper level then I knew. I was just racing my bike, just being myself, but when I needed people, they responded with love and generosity. It was hard to leave that community but I knew it was time for my own growth. Here I am now, in Colorado, establishing a link to a new community.

So when I say community, I say it with great intention and value. It is a support network, a gathering of like minded people. People who I can race against and have fun. That I can laugh with and cry.

Being new to this community, I want to make an impact. I want to see it grow and strengthen. So,how do we grow this community? How do we attract more women?

I posed this question to my friend Nicola Cranmer, the Exergy Womens Director, and she said that although women represent only 15% of the USAC license holders, there's something to be said about the quality. Look at the Olympics for example. The medals were won by women. It's not just about quantity, it's quality.

On a grassroots level, there are little things we can do to welcome new faces. Think about it, women's racing is super intimidating. Seeing teams all dressed the same and not very friendly is like being thrown to a pack of wolves. I highly recommend being welcoming to a new face, introducing yourself and going going out of your way. That little engagement, such as helping pin numbers on for someone, can make a massive difference in whether they ever show up again. On group rides, seek out those new faces, welcome them. Encourage them to come back.

If we want to grow our community, then we all need to do our part. I challenge each of you at each race to find one new person, introduce yourself and make a connection.

Back to when Clint and I were talking about women's sport, he mentioned that although small in numbers, women are often the loudest voices. We want more categories, equal pay, neutral support and a list of other things. And I'm sure we could brainstorm a long list tonight of the things we would like to improve women's cycling. But in order for change to happen we need action from those voices. So I have another challenge, another opportunity to grow our community from within. And that is for every idea, for every voice heard in this room, that each of you, each of those voices commit to one action. One thing that resonates where you think change needs to happen, regardless of size or impact, to improve womens' cycling.

I also propose we start meaningful conversations. A gathering where we can brainstorm ideas and things we want to see change, pick a specific topic and then focus on it.

Together, we can make a difference. And I look forward to seeing each of your contributions enhance our community.

Thank you.

News Item: 

27 Comments

I really wish women would

I really wish women would just start their own series. Then they have no one to blame for the lack of catagories, payouts, etc. Women, if you don't like the way things are or the way a promoter has scheduled payouts and race catagories, don't race and start your own damn series.

Are you serious?

Normally, such a post would have a hint of sarcasm incorporated into it, but your tone is just hostile.

In reality, men's racing would be seriously affected if women weren't such a big part of officaiting, volunteering, team leadership, and race directing in Colorado. Perhaps, you would feel better if you abstained from racing in any race where women were fulfilling such roles. Granted you might have a hard time finding any races, but I think we would all be better off.

Hi Anonymous-numbers for the evening

Shoot me an email (rachels at coloradocycling.org), and I'll send the handouts to you including the detailed race data analysis for women's participation since 2010. If 303 would like to publish, they can as well. This year's summit had about 50+ more participants than last year--including staff, board members, promoters, officials, the ED of OIWC, new and seasoned racers--and adopted four initiatives for 2013. Also, 2012 was our largest year for participation across the board in every senior and masters category (32.8% growth over 2011). SW4 and SW45+ saw the largest growth percentages. Retention from Cat 4 to 3 was a focus of the evening as statistically many come into the sport as a beginner to never be seen again. 2012 is no different than any year prior for BRAC or other LA's across the country. But also nationally, retention rates for nonprofit membership-based organizations for 1st year new members hovers around 70%. It's a problem shared among organizations like BRAC.

Overall, the feedback thus far from the summit has been very positive. Colorado has a great group of passionate, strong female athletes who want to grow the sport for women and are willing to work to make it happen despite raising families, working full time, and fitting in training where they can. I'm continually impressed by the stories women share, insight they offer into the sport, and willingness to work whether impacting one person at a time or influencing a room full of people. I know I'm excited about it and have experienced growth first hand with our team growing from 6 in 2010 to 60 women for 2013, with many of them never having participated a bike race in their life as of yet.

Susan and I are preparing a recap and survey during the holiday to send to participants and registered BRAC riders. This will also be published on coloradocycling.org.

And also, a HUGE thank you Jennifer Triplett for being a genuine keynote speaker and starting us off in a positive direction. Colorado is lucky to have you!

This is Beth Jordan-Rowley.

This is Beth Jordan-Rowley. I was there last night and I have the datasheet.

I think the most telling statistic that everyone focused on first was the large "gap" in the middle of the SW field, meaning the attrition of Cat 3s. I believe I represent this statistic as well. I am a 44 year old Cat 3. I don't particularly want to race Masters as I'm always isolated in those fields against vastly stronger riders like Margell and Beth Fisk (there's nothing wrong with either of these ladies, I like them both... I'd just rather not have to get shelled every single race). I'd honestly prefer to race as a 3 with my teammates - we have a number of good 3s on our women's squad right now. I certainly don't have the strength or the time to devote to training to keep up with a 1/2/3 field. To be frank, I will never be a 2, I just can't commit to that sort of training volume and keep my job and my marriage intact. I'm too experienced to be a 4, by about 20 years, really. So that leaves me with... mountain bike racing, which is what I've been doing primarily for the past 3 seasons.

I'm not going to focus on the Masters' women right now except to say that there was significant growth in the W45+ field this year; it's practically doubled since 2010.

TOTAL# OF BRAC (ACA) WOMEN RACERS BY CATEGORY:

2010:
SW4 - 746
SW3 - 385
SW1/2 - 494

2011:
SW4 - 591
SW3 - 313
SW1/2 - 449

2012:
SW4 - 866
SW3 - 351
SW1/2 - 541

So the telling figure is: where are the 3s? I think there are a combination of answers here. One answer is that SW4 are currently not upgrading for a variety of reasons. Some cited were that they prefer to race with their other SW4 friends and teammates. Many cited fear, and the high barrier to entry that is the jump across to the SW Open or 1/2/3 field.

We talked a lot about options. The 2 biggest problems we see to growing the numbers were barriers to entry (communication, advocacy, perceptions of women racers as unapproachable, fear / danger, and so on) and the practical/logistical time limitations on race day - promoters simply do not have enough daylight to hold all the categories that currently exist, and we recognize that as well.

My personal suggestion is to run a separate 3 field concurrently with Masters' women, and perhaps offer a SW Open or 1/2/3 field as well, to give the more competitive 3s the benefit of choice if they prefer to race up. I believe the 3s and 35+ fields are on decent parity (both speed and distance) and could either race combined or with a minute gap, depending on course limitations, field sizes, available resources, etc. A perfect example of a race this could work well for would be the Morgul Bismark road race, where you go from 2 laps (SW4 or 35+) to 4 (SW 1/2/3). A 3 lap women's 3/35+ field makes a lot more sense at least to me, and would also likely make paying the premium entry for this event more worthwhile to the competitive Masters women we have here too.

This also helps address the perceived issue of small fields from SW3 "not showing up". Chris McGee (I believe) did cite a statistic that there was a roughly 20% jump in SW3 participation when a separate 3 field was offered (vs. being combined with 1/2/3s. My suggestion there is that if promoters are sticking their necks out to hold a separate SW3 field, they need to get the word out early, and often, and really, you know, PROMOTE it.

There were a lot of other advocacy, training, mentoring and communications options discussed (it was a broad range of topics) but I believe the above roughly answers the question.

11% AVG jump in SW 3 participation when category is offered

2010
6.7 average # of SW3 entrants when Open is offered
10.8 average # of SW3 entrants when Separate is offered
8.9 average # of SW3 entrants when SW1-2-3 is offered
6.5 average # of SW3 entrants when SW3-4 is offered

2011
6 average # of SW3 entrants when Open is offered
11.2 average # of SW3 entrants when Separate is offered
6.7 average # of SW3 entrants when SW1-2-3 is offered
0 average # of SW3 entrants when SW3-4 is offered -nothing offered by ACA/BRAC in 2011

2012
1.7 average # of SW3 entrants when Open is offered - note these are all collegiate races
8.6 average # of SW3 entrants when Separate is offered
7.5 average # of SW3 entrants when SW1-2-3 is offered
3.0 average # of SW3 entrants when SW3-4 is offered

nice way to cherry-pick data that supports your argument

You're of course conveniently ignoring a couple of facts (responding to both replies above this one) that numbers from 2010 to 2011 were markedly down in ALL categories of road racing, not just women's events. Remember that whole "ACA vs USAC" brouhaha at the end of 2011 which was brought on in part by the drop in membership?

Anyway. the #s for SW4 are through the roof if you care to focus on that statistic. So. The question on everyone's mind at the summit was: how do we KEEP them, and promote their upgrade to SW3 WITHOUT driving them off (as has been statistically shown for years to happen). Part of that issue is to not throw them to the wolves in the Elite women's field the second they upgrade from 4 to 3, but there are other issues at play here, too. It's a complex problem, and you can't apply the usual biased, polarized reductive, dismissive reasoning to it (and yes, I realize the above 2 comments were very likely trolls, but still).

The Alpha Cross payout thing is a strawman. First off, they didn't do any decent kind of promotion of the payout, and I'm not sure they even knew they'd have equal pay until last minute sponsors kicked in. First I'd heard of it was the announcer announcing it right before the start of the women's race.

Women racers in particular are bound by schedules and family concerns. If promoters fail to realize this, and wait until the last minute to organize things, then failure of women to show up for their event is going to be a self-fulfilling prospect. Prize lists are also merely one consideration in a spectrum of concerns for women racers; proximity and perceived event quality (please note I said PERCEIVED, not actual quality) is another big one.

Please be aware that this is in no way a criticism of Alpha Cross or their attempts to promote their race or offer equal pay to the SW Open. I'm merely pointing out that by doing so, they're taking a risk and making some assumptions that may not be entirely accurate.

Simple fact: women racers are much more bound by schedules and planning than by prize lists and soforth; this is a simple demographic truth that I've yet to see bike race promoters really grasp. Prize lists are really, really nice, and it's good to know that promoters have our backs and acknowledge that the Elite Women's field is as important as the men's, but there are also some holes in the logic. Women must frequently decide on schedules and events weeks in advance owing to conflicting resource issues (child care, other family activities, kids' school and sports conflicts, et cetera). Racing twice a weekend is a luxury most of them do not have for these reasons. I think a lot of women racers opted to go to Valmont instead as a "known quantity" rather than take a risk on what appears to be a relatively new / unknown event; not to mention it is far to get to if you're not from the "bubble" (you know, I don't like it either, but the facts are: racers in this region will turn out to Boulder-based events in greater quantity unless there's something really compelling to drive them elsewhere).

Therefore, if promoters don't have their ducks in a row regarding prize lists, or wait until the last minute to post the flyer or don't give out good course intel or often just attempt to host a high level event at an unfamiliar venue. First-year events and/or second year events that didn't "market well" in their initial offerings are almost always poorly attended; that's been a truism since I started racing over 2 decades ago. That is the downside of not really promoting or marketing the event effectively.

So here's a question for you trolls up there: the SW4 field at Sunday's Quarter Mile Cross was bigger than either the SM4 or SM3 field. So what does that do to your cherry-picked data? Would you like to now discuss eliminating SM4 as a category, based on that one statistic? No, I didn't think so. That race had every card in the deck stacked against it: it's a Sunday event (historically lower turnout), it was a new venue, it was on the last day of a 4-day weekend when pretty much everyone is either traveling, visiting family (or dropping them off at the airport), dealing with holiday parties/events, running errands, doing house chores, and generally focusing on anything but racing their bikes. Added to which, there was not much good prior intel and it wasn't within a 20 minute drive of Boulder. They had very low turnout numbers. Does this mean they shouldn't bother trying to hold it again next year? No, I think they should take their turnout with a grain of salt and either lower their expectations, try a different date, or do a better job of marketing.

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