London Women’s Cycle Racing – 2010

It soon became apparent that when going through pictures for a recent feature on the Smithfield Nocturne held in 2007 I could not find one picture of a woman racer. This got me thinking about the creation of the ‘London Women’s Cycle Racing’ league.

The London Women’s Cycle Racing was formed in 2010 to offer women riders a better chance of racing against each other. Prior to the launch of the LWCR we had noticed that women did race and could be found racing at all sorts of venues, but mostly competed anonymously with the men.

At the Crystal Palace Circuits where I helped judge and commissaire, we began to record all women finishers as they flew by in amongst the men. It was no easy task, but we did manage to get a women’s result out each week. This seemed to draw women to the Palace Circuits and subsequently this led to a separate women’s start and finish rather than continuing with the category ¾ men. Again it wasn’t easy juggling these races on a compact circuit and we had to often be tough as we asserted that the women’s race to our minds was just as important (or even more so) as the men’s race. For many men this was quite a mind bending concept.

Soon we had good fields of women and it was during one evening in the South London Park whilst we watched a really good and well attended female race that Maria David and I commentated that if only we could flag up races so that women could target them and thus get good fields at selected events. A few words after the race with Maryka Sennema and Rebecca Slack and it soon became clear that we were all in accord.

Huge thanks has to be given to the teams and clubs who worked with us during that first season. Also thanks to the riders who made it all worthwhile.

Hog Hill

I was able to attend a good number of the twelve rounds in 2010 whilst some were covered by Dave Hayward. We raced at Goodwood, the Eagle RC Crits at Hog Hill, at Crystal Palace of course, at the Hillingdon Grand Prix, Essex Giro and the Smithfield Nocturne (the latter three being women only races and which were very rare at that time). We also held two time trial rounds including one in Richmond Park.

Maryka and Maria offer below their thoughts on that first year and how they see women’s racing today in 2018.

Results and reports for that first season can be found here – http://www.londonwomenscycleracing.com/2010/

The LWCR became the London Women’s Racing in 2016 coordinated by Charmaine Rees and Beth Hodge. The current website is here – https://londonwomensracing.co.uk/

Maryka Sennema (the first champion)

Maryka leads the lead group up the Hoggenberg at round two

“I think that first season was a success in that we just wanted to get a load of women out racing in the same races to get decent-sized fields, rather than all of us scattered at various other races on various days thus diluting the fields, and we managed to do that.  This was back when points were still 10 for a win regardless of field size, so it’s important to note for us that it wasn’t about points, categories, or even wins/results, but rather we saw the need for proper women’s racing to exist (proper = with competitive-sized fields so it wasn’t a TTT or TT by default).  Apart from the Team Series and National Series races, BC and the women’s calendar didn’t really give us the opportunity to have many truly competitive races at that time, so we had to make it for ourselves by pulling various races into an LWCR racing calendar and getting riders to turn up for them.”

“Fast forward nearly 9 years and much has changed.  BC and the regions have recognised the need for calendar coordination country-wide and have rolled out for 2019 not only the National-level calendar coordination but also regional.  It should be noted that those regions encompassing greater London were already a step ahead, in that Eastern, Central, and South East with the help of the LWR were already coordinating between themselves in 2018 to limit the offering of races to women on any given weekend and therefore better push all the regional riders towards fewer races to create more competitive fields.   The LWCR, now the LWR, has changed focus from an all-categories league to one aimed at beginner and lower category riders, which is where the bulk of the racers sit.  Elites, 1st cats, and ambitious 2nd cats now benefit from a hugely improved National Series calendar, but “career” 2nds, 3rds, and 4ths can now race against each other without the Es and 1sts blowing the race to pieces.  This is how it’s been in men’s racing for years, of course, so to see women’s racing reach the level where genuine amateur sporting racers (i.e. those who do it as a hobby with no aspiration to ride at higher levels) have a calendar of their own and some decent competition is great.”

“We still have a long way to go but it feels as though our mission over the past 9 years has stayed the same, and we’ve had a lot of success reaching riders, organisers, and the regions/HQ through what we’ve done with the LW(C)R.  I sit on the women’s road commission and there’s more positive changes to come in 2019 and beyond, where we can hopefully start to improve the race categories and classification system so that 2nd cat doesn’t contain such a massive range of rider ability, and Elite and 1st cat categories gain greater numbers to reflect the proportion of riders who race “seriously” around the country.  There was a time a few years ago when every organiser wanted to put on a women’s race which, while flattering, was in some ways counterproductive as it meant supply simply was greater than demand, and the of the 3-2-1 points system created a chicken-egg situation where low entries would keep riders away, and riders not entering meant low entries… but I think the digital age of calendar coordination and online entries has caught that just in time, so I would hope to see women’s racing even more competitive moving forward — in all categories, just as men’s racing is.”

Maria David (Two Wheel Chick – https://2wheelchick.blogspot.com/)

Maria also on the Hoggenberg

“The Women’s League, it is a bit of a blur now! So feel free to edit what I say as you might remember it better than me! Also, cut down if it’s too long! Firstly, what I loved was the way that the founder members and you (John – ed), mucked in on what felt like an experimental project. I had a vision of how it would look, but I didn’t really know how it would really turn out. I am very grateful to the folks who supported us – Sam and Matt from Look Mum No Hands (who were also only starting out at the time), the clubs and their riders, Glyn at Surrey League and Gino in the Eastern Region, who all bought into it. The cycling media including London Cyclesport (that was me – ed), British Cycling wesbite and Cycling Weekly, were really supportive of our project too, and gave us column inches.”

“That first race we did at Goodwood was amazing – 40 women turned up. That had never been seen before in a local women’s race. Then a few weeks later we had a similar turn-out at Hog Hill, and I recall Laura Trott and Corrine Hall turning up. Suddenly many folks were talking about it – something I hadn’t anticipated as I would’ve been happy to see just 15-20 women turning up at the races, all under the radar.”

“The awards night at Look Mum No Hands! Was a really fun evening, and you were a great compare (Sorry I wrote a corny script for you!), along with a guy called DJ Festus who was a friend of Wiesia Kuczaj. Sponsors were also generous – Condor Cycles, Rapha, De Ver Cycles, Bean About Town Coffee. That was a good year, and I think a bit of a turning point for local women’s road racing.”

“More sophisticated, slicker groups have formed since then, and it’s great to see so many women out racing or aspiring to race. It’s no longer uncommon to see races with 30 women turning up, and I think it is down to the pioneers in that season in 2010 (Maryka Sennema, Liz Rice, Rebecca Slack, Claire Beaumont, Wiesia Kuczaj, dear Charlotte Easton) and those who followed in the years afterwards (Tabitha Rendall, Beth Hodge, Charmaine Rees, Jane Dennison) who have really helped to perpetuate women’s road racing in the London area, and even give a model for other groups around the country to follow.”

Loads more pictures here and a few below
Round 2, Hog Hill, April 4, 2010
Round 3, Crystal Palace, April 20, 2010
Round 5, Hillingdon Grand Prix, May 16, 2010
Round 8, Crystal Palace, June 15, 2010
Round 11, Essex Giro/Hog Hill, July 31, 2010
Round 12, Richmond Park Time Trial, August 8

Loads more pictures here
Round 2, Hog Hill, April 4, 2010
Round 3, Crystal Palace, April 20, 2010
Round 5, Hillingdon Grand Prix, May 16, 2010
Round 8, Crystal Palace, June 15, 2010
Round 11, Essex Giro/Hog Hill, July 31, 2010
Round 12, Richmond Park Time Trial, August 8

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