PLANNING is already underway to build on a master class women's cycling event in Learmonth to ensure the weekend's racing was no token gesture.
Eureka Cycling Club's La Course aux Velo Femmes, the first stage in a new three-race all-female series, celebrated 46 women tackling its Windmill circuit course at the weekend.
The handicapped field finished in a 30-minute spread but Eureka Cycling vice-president Dean Wells said the focus was on allowing women a platform to get a safe, non-threatening taste of competitive road cycling.
This follows Eureka Cycling's move last year to introduce a junior scholarship for an emerging young female rider to take her riding up a gear - the club ended up choosing two. The club has continued its push for more ways to attract women to veteran road racing because the uptake in Ballarat, as across the state, was low for women aged 30-plus.
A key part of this for Eureka, a growing club of predominantly male riders, has been in promoting an inclusive culture. The club self-catered for a range of dietary requirements and sent a couple of former club champions out on course to ride with inexperienced competitors.
Of the field, 35 women were existing club members from across the state including three first-time racers.
A further 11 women entered as trial riders on day permits - one was a Ballarat triathlete, another the mother of a good Ballarat junior cyclists and many who were new to the sport. Trial riders were unable to win prizemoney but a voucher for a club membership for a participating club was up for grabs.
"One of our riders followed a woman who had dropped off the bunch and was having a hard time in the rain. She had a wonderful time, even though she otherwise would have been pretty alone," Mr Wells said. "There's all that camaraderie.
"Linnea Bjornsson, who won line honours, took us ages to get her to come along to racing. She's an experienced rider and rides with the coffee bunches but was unsure if she'd be fast enough to race...It's about building confidence."
Mr Wells said other experienced female riders also looped back to help other women with advice and riding support to complete the event.
La Course aux Femmes stems from a move by Geelong and Surf Coast Cycling Club to stage a women's race in December as part of its More Females on Bikes initiative. Ballarat and Bendigo masters have joined forces to create a series now sponsored by a major hygiene product company with Bendigo and Geelong stages to line up from September.
Mr Wells said Eureka Cycling is already exploring how to grow its event with a Melbourne leg also likely to be part of the series next year.
He hoped this Ballarat race was enough to entice a few more women to take up a club membership in their region and, importantly, to give riding a go.
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