A MOVE to get more women on their bikes is peddling far more than a race or club involvement.
La Course aux Velo Femmes in Learmonth, part of a new three-race series, is about community clubs proactively finding ways to involve more women in their sport and recreation. This is a club taking a good look at what they could do with what they do best to encourage and foster inclusion without waiting for government grants or directives from its sport governing body.
Eureka Cycling Club jumped on an initiative down on the Surf Coast late last year: a successful trial of a female-only masters race and subsequent call-out seeking others to help make a series of it.
This fit Eureka Cycling's push to get more women cycling but seizing this opportunity is also about good community leadership and to reinforce awareness that there are mums, daughters, aunts and nanas out pedalling on shared roads too.
Eureka Cycling's membership is on trend with the nation.
The club has good strong numbers in a booming veterans sport but small female contingent.
Cycling ranks 14 in the latest Australian sports and recreation participation figures released a fortnight ago. Organised cycling has two peak age periods in juniors and those aged 45-55. For men, cycling is a top-five participation sport for 25 through to 65-plus age groups but for women, the sport makes a brief resurgence in the 45-54 category before dropping off again.
Eureka Cycling Club vice-president Dean Wells said confidence was a big hurdle, both in organised and more informal riding about Ballarat.
Of those new to racing for La Course aux Velo Femmes at the weekend, some had newly purchased road bikes, others had swapped from mountain biking, triathlons or social riding. Wells said most were uncertain about whether they would be good enough for race conditions. Some hoped for the right chance to prove they could do it.
This race was about showcasing all abilities and having a go.
Prize money was on offer for club riders, and a voucher to join a club for those on trial race permits, but the focus was on support.
Eureka sent a couple of male club champions out to help women on warm-up rides, advice, or company for those who dropped off a bunch. What the club found, was some experienced women also stepped up to help out on course.
The series has events in Geelong and Bendigo later this year and has secured a major sponsor to ensure these events have time to develop and offer more women, of all ages and abilities, a taste of riding in a fun non-threatening environment in a sport long dominated by men.
This is a huge step in allowing women a chance to develop their game.
There have been events to entice more women on their bikes in Ballarat before, like SheRides coaching women up the Mount Buninyong climb during the nationals carnival.
But there needs to be greater safe and supportive platforms, without fear of judgement, to keep women riding.
This city has been a big promoter of VicHealth's This Girl Can Campaign but it is great to see clubs seizing a chance to do it their way too.
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