Why women’s racing matters: The new Collegiate C Women field at the Cardinal Criterium

USA Cycling reported in its 2013 member survey that only 15% of its membership is female. 

That’s an alarming figure. 

The first thing that comes to mind is: why? 

Bike racing can be a fun, social atmosphere. It pushes individuals to new experiences and places. It ‘s also an excellent way to meet kind, friendly people. 

But we all start somewhere, and I know I’d be lying if I said bike racing didn’t make me nervous at first. 

What ultimately did it for me was that I could enter a bike race where I knew the competition wouldn’t drown me, didn’t break the bank and would be a fun, judgement-free atmosphere. Collegiate cycling was that doorway.

An issue the MWCCC and other promoters have faced in the past is that entry numbers for beginner women’s racing doesn’t make an impact on the bottom line. Five to ten entries don’t make a whole lot of business sense, but this thinking ignores the human side of bike racing. 

That thinking lumps beginners into racing they’re not ready for and their experience can lead to disillusionment and an early exit from this sport we’ve all worked so hard to cultivate. 

I’m glad Matt Jones and the MWCCC decided to collectively approach the issue of beginner retention and added the standalone Women’s Collegiate C category. It proves that we’re in for the long haul of developing women’s cycling. 

It provides beginner women everything they need to succeed: similarly skilled individuals, collegiate comradery and the opportunity to aspire to higher categories that won’t pit them against professional racers.–I don’t mean that as a dig against the successful programs in our conference, but I’m pointing out the gulf in experience and skill our conference is looking to bridge. 

Women’s racing is equality, it’s diversity and even if it doesn’t make money now, it doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. The Cardinal Crit, being the first race of the season, will be the first ever MWCCC race to provide a dedicated Women’s C field. It continues our tradition of being innovative, entrepreneurial, and fulfills our ultimate mission to “promote all forms of cycling by racing, advocating and educating.” 

Learn more about the Cardinal Criterium at UofLcycling.com/CardinalCrit

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