Women’s Racing and the Mid-Devon Cycling Club

There is a certain amount of excitement regarding the dropping of the women’s road race on the day of the Primavera Races for men. I thought the information below might be useful in giving a historical background to the club and its support over many years to women‘s racing.

Women’s Racing and the Mid-Devon Cycling Club.

In view of recent comments made on Face book and no doubt among members when meeting up I thought it useful to give the membership a précis of the history regarding the club and how it has supported women’s racing as far as was or is allowed under the various rules and regulations of Cycling Time Trials and British Cycling.

In the 1950s and 1960s women were not allowed to compete with men. They had to have their own race. To that end the club decided to promote an open 15 mile time trial for women. It was one of only 3 or 4 clubs in the South West to run such an event. The club even obtained a trophy which we still have. When the rules changed – see below – the 15 mile women’s race was dropped. Also in the 1950s the club introduced a points competition for women who rode in the various club events held in the evenings and or Sundays. Again we have this trophy.

In 1960 the club committee decided to buy a shield to be awarded to the winner of the club’s open 25 mile time trial. It was the year when the Olympic Games were held in Rome so it was named the Olympic Shield. The first race was won by Kay Ray who lived in and raced for a North London club. This shield is still competed for. This year the winner was Zoe Betteridge of the North Devon Wheelers.

In the 1970s the rules changed and women could race in the same event as men so the 15 miles was not run again.

Roll on to the late 1990s or early 2000s when the club ran the very popular Springtime Pursuits. The club was the first in the SW to allow women to start at the front of the race. I believe we had 10 entrants. The route was on the old A30 between Exeter Airport and Whimple. This continued for several years with the numbers slowly growing till we felt confident that we could achieve sufficient entries for the women to have their own pursuit race. This was run before lunch and the men raced in the afternoon.

The construction of Cranbrook New Town meant that the roads to the east of Exeter were no longer suitable and we moved to Halwill Junction and then Hatherleigh. The club then put on races for women – again it was women in the morning and men in the afternoon. While this format was good it did mean a very long day for the officials and the marshals. February can be cruel on the weather front and to be at the roadside for about 90 minutes, get cold and wet or both then after lunch go out again for say 2.5 hours was a big ask.

In 2016 was decided to see if we could run these races concurrently rather than consecutively. To that end we came up with a circuit of 30 miles plus inside it a loop if 11.5 miles. By careful planning we were able to run the 3 races at the same time with no race catching up another race. The downside was that it needed 98 signs to ensure that the requirements of the risk assessment were met. To do this 2 teams of 2 went out on the Saturday and put out the signs. From Abbrook back to Abbrook took some 6 hours!  It also meant on the Sunday the club finding 5 more drivers and cars along with 1 more medical team plus the Commissaire Coordinator had to source 2 more commissaires from the SW pool along with 4 additional National Escort Group motor cyclists to assist with the safe passage of the race.

Post race it meant 2 more teams of 2 collecting the signs. As it was a different pairing inevitably some signs were missed and we had to go back to Halwill Junction to retrieve them.

With a great deal of reluctance the club decided that for 2017 and beyond we had to reduce the signage toll and the women’s race was the casualty.  At the South West Road Race Work Group meeting this was reported this but also said was: –

1    –    MDCC has the hall all day and if you or anyone wants to put on a Women’s race then you may have use of the HQ at no charge

2    –    You can use the MDCC signs but you may have to collect in the signs and return them to Abbrook.

3    –    You may have to find race vehicles even if the morning officials stay on.

The 2 women reps then canvassed opinion and from the feedback declined the offer on the grounds that it was too early in the season.

A second option has now opened up and will be reported to the Road Race Work Group when it meets on Wednesday 25th January.

The Totnes-Vire Stage 3 is on the 18 mile Okehampton Circuit and there is room at the HQ should they want the same deal. 2 laps= 36 miles or 3 laps = 54 miles. At 25 m.p.h. the E/1/2/3 will take 2 hours 10 minutes before they commence their final lap. If the women do at least 20 m.p.h then 3 laps are in 2 hours 40 minutes so there would not be any danger of being lapped even if they start 10 minutes after the men.

On the circuit racing front the club feeds into its race programme at the Velopark regular ‘Women only’ races. With support from Andrew Parker in his role of Regional Events Officer he ensures that we have the right balance to meet the demand.

I hope that the above shows that on the racing front the club has always supported women’s racing in either time trials, road races or circuit races and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Ken R

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