Feature: Women Racing in Men’s Events


A great article from Karla Boddy of the High Wycombe CC tells of her expereince racing a men’s category 2/3/4 event where she finished in the bunch sprinting for the win.

Karla Boddy of the High Wycombe CC tells of her expereince racing a men’s event. Recently we published details on how Women can also race in Youth events as well as the growing number of Women only events. So not only do women looking for a race have the Team Series, Jo Bruton National Series and quite a few other women only road race options, they can also choose to race Youth events on closed circuits away from traffic or in Men’s races.

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Here is Karla’s report from her club’s own promtion, the High Wycombe CC Autumn Road Race, Cat 2,3,4 on September 11th, 2011

Karla writes … After almost two weeks of lying on the beach in Hawaii, it was a tough order thinking I could take part in a men’s road race, especially only having done three womens road races before. The other bit that loomed over me was a) the 62mile course b) the second cats in the race and c) the slight issue of Claire Hill.

None of those things sound like much on there own to most, or perhaps put together, but for me it was daunting and I set myself a target of hanging on until the enamel on my teeth was no more. Eighty riders turned up on the start line and it looked like we might avoid the rainy conditions but not the windy ones…… in more ways than one. First differentiation from women’s racing; men fart and burp a lot! Its safe to say us ladies have a touch more decorum!

I placed myself near the front knowing that I needed as many wheels to hold onto as possible as the pace stretched the elastic in my legs. Somehow I managed to take in the first eight miles with some ease but ever present in my mind was Claire Hill. Now, those of you who know the Oxon area will know this little rise is not much out training but it is when you have 80 testosterone filled men charging up it at over 20 mph. So I hustled my self to the front line as a few crazy souls sprinted for the Prime and to my surprise getting up there at that speed was the easy bit…..the hard bit was staying with the boys over the top as it flattened out where standard race pace of 27mph + was resumed pretty sharpish.

Lap one done, soaked, mud, cow sh*t and one gel down, I was ready for lap two of four. And so it continued, the Roubaix type conditions, the excessive speeds and the stop start we are all used to in racing; its not just women’s racing which crawls along and then suddenly all hell breaks lose. The boys do it too. Its just that their pace is significantly different from ours.

I survived lap two and lap three for that matter but it was getting tougher. There were less and less wheels to fall back on as I drifted back over the top of the hill. On the final lap, I necked the last caffeine gel hoping it would give me a tiny bit extra. One of our guys, Tom Crouch, was in the break which was reeled back on our last pursuit up Claire Hill; Tom had been out front for three laps with one other and 45 miles of front riding in the wind had left him a broken man….

He could see me struggling to hold the wheel of the guy in front as the bunch moved further and further away but absolutely buried himself to bridge the gap for me and take me safely to the back, and I mean the very back, of the “bunch” which was now less then 40 riders.

For the next three miles, I fought really hard to stay with the boys and I knew if we could get into the last three miles, I could stay in until the final 400m drag to the line. And I did. James Norris got a deserved 6th and Liam Stones from 45RC got a well deserved 1st place. Me? I rolled in at the very back of a diminished bunch of about 30 riders from the original 80. Sixty two miles, average speed of 25.5mph, gale force winds, rain, four gels, one bar, two litres of energy drink and I was pedaling squares over the line.

Rolling slowly toward the back at the top of Claire Hill on lap 3
But I did it. I stayed in a 2nd cat men’s road race when about 50 guys didn’t finish in the bunch and many abandoned due to the horrid weather. These boys are strong for sure, much stronger than the women’s races but that’s just fact. There is nothing stopping any women being able to keep in a men’s road race. Pick them wisely, don’t pick them too hilly (unless your Armistead, Cooke and Pooley where I’m sure they’d be giving the boys a run for their money!) and fuel like you’ve never fuelled before as men’s races are by nature longer, harder and faster.

You learn a lot more about bunch riding in a men’s race; there are more of you and as such you are forced to be much more disciplined. Noticeably men take more risks in a race but most of them are calculated and work, others are just plain stupid. One guy was doing no handed in the middle of the bunch at 29mph to clean his sun glasses lenses on his sleeves, I told him it wasn’t the pro tour and got a dirty look back.

I have to say idiotic moves like this are not present in the women’s road racing I’ve been in and if/when it happens the girls police each other well enough to prevent accidents happening. From a personal perspective, it is also nice to ride with my other half as I am usually on the sidelines cheering him on!

So the next time you wonder if you should enter a men’s race do it! Its bunch racing at its best and a hell of a good work out!

Rolling over the line whilst pedaling squares with my lovely better half Adam coming back to support me! Typically the sun came out at the end!

Related Link: Karla’s report on Training in Spain

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