Problem: There aren’t as many races for women as there are for men and a lot of women’s races that do exist are criteriums (crits) so there aren’t as many opportunities for women to experience and get better at road racing.
Suggestion: Organise a women’s road race (and check the date doesn’t clash with another, & publicise it well).
Example: Ruth Taylor organised a 2 day stage race for women alongside a men’s 2 day stage race in the North-West of England this year (2015). I interviewed Ruth about what she did, how it went, and to find out what advice she’d give for someone wishing to put on a women’s race.
Header Photo Credit: Ellen Isherwood
Tell us about yourself
My name’s Ruth Taylor, 38, Racing Secretary for Manchester Wheelers. I first got a road bike in 2009 and started racing in 2011 with crits mostly, the majority of which were at Tameside in the 4th cat race. I now race road, track and cyclocross.
I currently have a few lines of work, as Cycling Participation Co-ordinator for the Derbyshire Dales District Council, as a Mountaineering Instructor, and I also have my own company creating hand knitted bespoke hats called Scruffy Dog Creations.
You recently organised a women’s 2 day stage race. Was that the 1st time Manchester Wheelers organised one?
In recent times this was the first stage race organised by Manchester Wheelers. We have previously been the host club for a round of the CDNW road race league but sadly this league wasn’t happening this year (2015) so we decided to put on a race anyway.
Was this the 1st race you’d organised?
No, I organised a day of racing at Tameside Cycling Circuit for the Manchester Wheelers 130th birthday celebrations in 2013, but it was the first 2 day stage race I’d organised.
Was it your idea?
It was mostly my idea, after having ridden the Surf and Turf for the previous 2 seasons I knew it would be a format that would work. I just thought it was a great opportunity to do something fun…ha! Over ambitious? Maybe!
Are there many women’s stage races in the North West / country?
Up until this season there has been the Surf and Turf 2-day in the North West, but again this was organised by CDNW which no longer exists in the same way. There is also the Holme Valley Wheelers Stage Race which expanded to 2 days this year. Elsewhere in the country there are some big 2-day races which are part of either the National Road Race Series (Essex Giro) or the Women’s Team Series (Bedford 3-day). All these stage races are open to Elite/1st/2nd/3rd category riders, whereas our race was a 2/3/4 only.
What kind of things do you have to do as a race organiser of a 2 day stage race?
Venues/circuits are important and caused a massive headache for me this year with the loss of a large number of circuits. I ended up having to move the road race stage to Oakenclough rather than Great Budworth, which although further from home did make for some great racing.
The commissaire team was a huge priority for me. I knew if I could get the right people involved then the race would be a success – and thankfully the amazing commissaires in the North West stepped up and got behind the race.
I had a lot of contact with British Cycling and the regional co-ordinators (e.g. Jenny Gretton & Dave Greatorex) who helped as much as they could with the event, as did the other Manchester Wheelers.
How did you get prizes/prize money?
Luckily, Manchester Wheelers were prepared to underwrite the prize money, although it mostly covered itself. I wasn’t too ambitious with prizes etc this year, didn’t look for sponsorship in a big way. But still got a couple of prizes from Bikehaus in Gatley, and Scruffy Dog Creations sponsored the Combativity awards.
How did it go?
Photo Credit: Ellen Isherwood
Did you enjoy it?
I mostly enjoyed the actual event. It was quite stressful in the run up but once people were actually on their bikes and racing I could afford to sit back and relax a bit. Although it was quite tough watching everyone racing and not being able to take part.
Did you get any feedback from the riders?
Would you do it again?
I’m not sure I’ve got a choice! Although I might get someone else to be the official name on the event and then I would be able to ride it!
Would you do anything differently next time?
I’m considering the possibility of changing things up a bit for next year, but it will depend on what’s available in terms of road circuits etc. Maybe a longer TT (although still without any aero kit).
What was the biggest challenge?
Getting the road race circuit after my original plan was suddenly no longer allowed. It’s always a challenge getting enough help for events, but the Manchester Wheelers did me proud and stepped up to get involved.
How much time does it take to organise a race?
I’m lucky not working a full-time job so I can fit things in a bit more easily, but I would say it took probably a total of 5-7 days of effort. Emails, trips to collect kit, getting all the equipment together, rounding up marshals etc
Does the local women’s cycling scene need more people to step up as women’s race organisers?
I think it’s more of a case of local organisers being prepared to have both a men’s and women’s race as part of their promotion. So if you are part of a club that organises an event then please get involved to make it a 2 race event!
Would you say someone need a certain amount of experience helping others with organising races before putting one on themselves?
Not really. I helped out with CDNW races a little bit, but then got straight into the Tameside 130th day of racing. It’s more about having the right people in your contact book to be able to ask for help, and not being afraid to ask seemingly daft questions!
What advice would you give to someone who’s up for putting on a women’s race?
Make sure you have an audience for the event. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in combining with a men’s event to make it financially viable, so long as the women’s event isn’t seen as a sideshow! We had riders coming from all over the place, teams/clubs who came men’s and women’s together which made it a really social event.
If you’ve been racing yourself then you probably know which events you liked, those that felt well organised and those that you want to ride again – they are the people to talk to.