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Ladies' Cycling Association's first race of the year attracts its biggest field ever - three times last year's entry...

After record numbers of women joined Dame Sarah Storey, Joanna Rowsell and Katie Archibald in a 10 mile open handicap time trial in Cheshire at the weekend, organisers say women's amateur racing is on the up but much more can be done to bridge the gender gap.

The event in Lower Whittington, Cheshire, which was organised by the Manchester & District Ladies' Cycling Association (M&DLCA), had 34 women entrants, the highest in the association's 60 year history and three times last year's numbers.

Promoters say the bumper numbers were a product of more women coming through from clubs and social rides, the fact Storey brought seven of her elite team, Pearl Izumi  Sports Tours International, and a social media drive by the M&DLCA.

Nicola Fox is one of those promoting rides through Twitter and Facebook.

She said: "Last year was my first proper attempt at time trialling. Where last year there were 8-10 women, this year there were 34 so that just shows how much it has grown."

"This weekend was the first of the series this year so if we get numbers like that for the rest of the year that will be fantastic."

Fox is determined to continue the increase in numbers and encouraging women to try time trialling.

"I have been trying to boost numbers myself on Twitter, explaining what time trials are about, saying it doesn't matter about what kind of bike you have - it is just you against you. So just educating people about it, offering to meet up and show you one of the courses."

Facebook pages have also helped women connect with one another, says Fox, and minimise the intimidation factor.

"You can see what kind of people are already riding it: that they are older women, they are newbies and they are just as scared as me!" she said.

Heather West, M&DLCA committee member, said the social media drive appears to be working, as well as a general uptick in interest following major sporting events like London 2012. She said: "There's a lot of riders this year that have never ridden a time trial before - about 8 of 81 riders."

"In the last 18 months to two years I'm seeing a lot more women out on the roads; some just doing social rides, some riding with clubs, and now they are getting more involved and doing time trials".

The M&DLCA, which was formed in 1949 at a time when women were barred from male-dominated race events, promotes and organises races for women, with a focus on time trials.

The 10 mile time trial was won by Ciara Horne (pictured above courtesy of www.kimroy-photography.co.uk) from Pearl Izumi Sports Tour International, who completed the course in 22:45, two seconds faster than Storey. The handicap winner was Pearl Izumi's Nikola Butler, with a time of 24:45.

Fox said time trialling is still dominated by men and though numbers were good this year she wants to see equal men and women competing in events that sometimes attract 150 men. The next step, she says, is to encourage women to get into events outside of the M&DLCA and into committees in organisations like the CTT (Cycling Time Trials), time trialling's national governing body.

You can see pictures of the event here.