This is a bit of a rambling rant. I have entered Melbourne Cup on Wheels, the heats and “support”events of which are held this Saturday afternoon. After checking out the final entry list, I had a minor conniption. There are two B/C grade women riders, and the other 11 (yes, there are only 13 of us entered in total) are A grade/national/international level. It’s going to be an interesting afternoon of racing.
My first reaction was feeling completely overwhelmed and totally out of my depth (and slightly freaked out). Why? Why did I feel like that? After some deep thought (stop laughing!!) I realised it was because of the low entry numbers, and the high quality of the very small field. So then I checked out the Sid Patterson women’s field, which has only 1-2 more women entered, but a “wider” range of ability. Sid Patterson is on Friday night, the evening before MCOW. Some women have entered both, all kudos and thank yous to them (more on this later). This led me to ask another question: why are some women, including those masters who race under an elite licence, racing one and not the other. I’m racing once because frankly I want my Friday night to myself, rather than giving yet another week night to cycling. I give enough week nights to cycling as it is. But for the others, I am curious, and have no answer myself for that question.
Back to my first question (I told you this was a ramble!). Why do I feel overwhelmed? I know I would feel less so if the field was bigger, so I could “hide” (hide on the track?? yeah ok). More to the point, a larger field means a wider range of abilities, simply. A wider range of abilities means that riders like me don’t stand out so much, as being obviously at a different level to the majority of the other women riding. People may say, the likes of myself shouldn’t be riding (why?? Because they wouldn’t/haven’t entered themselves!). I think that kind of response says more about who is saying it, than to whom it is directed.
The bottom line for me, particularly this season, is that women’s numbers have been woeful, very low. If one less person raced (ie if I didn’t enter because I felt overwhelmed, not up to standard, name your own reason…) there would be even less women racing. Bloody obvious I know. But when you have 13 women entered, one less is significant, no matter the standard.
The other point is why I ride. I train hard. I may not train as much as those A grade women racing, for a whole bunch of reasons, mainly to do with life, but I train as best as I can with the time resources I have. Why do I train? To race. Not because I enjoy training, because a lot of the time, I'd rather be relaxing with a glass of Sam Miranda after work and reading a book. I like to race. Who says I can’t race an open because I am slower than X/Y/Z or older or less fit or will come last? Big deal!!! I say, put your money where your mouth is and enter the bloody race, go race it and support women’s racing.
If you don’t, then there will come a day when there is no Ladies’ Diamond Stakes, no provision for good races for women (1 wheelrace as a feature event, to entertain the lunch time crowd. Don’t laugh, it used to be like that), no capacity for quality racing for women. I want to race other women at my level. Currently I can’t. Why not? Because they don’t enter open races. It’s a numbers game, and by entering, we legitimise promoters’ show of faith in providing racing for women.
So for me, racing MCOW on Saturday afternoon is about my right to race, my support of women’s racing, my thank you to the promoter for providing the racing, as well as to make those back markers do some work to do to win the race. And because I enjoy it!