The Midwest CX Stitch was created as part of an initiative on the east coast called Cycling Made Real, an organization started by women for women aiming to address the “too few races with too few contestants” problem. However, here in the Midwest, we have a slightly different problem. We have too many cyclocross races and too few women, so what ends up happening is everyone stays local, racing the same three to 10 women that they always do and “winning” small payouts and whatever schwag the promoter might dig up for yet another D or E class event.
Inspired by the success of the road race series, America’s Dairyland Series, I talked to a couple of my SHECLISMO teamies, who are all beginner cyclocross racers, and asked them, “What if you went to race and you knew there would be 40+ women to race against, there was payout, great prizes and good parties? Would you travel for that?”
“For sure!” they said.
It also seemed to make sense from a sponsor and promoter point of view. Instead of spreading resources so thinly and serving so few women, sponsors and promoters could focus their resources and really make an event worth traveling for, yielding more entries for promoters, more visibility for sponsors and more economic impact for hosting venues. After all, this is what we do as an industry for our pro and top elite riders. Let’s see what happens if we do it for beginner and intermediate women riders. Maybe we can get more women to give the sport a try and perhaps even stick with it for the long haul.
However, the series has a few twists. We have lots of ways to win and it’s not by having several age categories, it’s by having different areas of focus that contribute to the event and experience as a whole. For example, our “makes cyclocross look the most fun” award is given by someone in the crowd who’s impressed by the attitude and spirit of a particular racer. In fact, we think this is so important to our mission that the series winner in this category gets first pick out of the prize pool.
The point is that not everyone can be fast, be we all can become better bike handlers, better ambassadors for the sport, and better friends and teammates. That’s the sort of thing we want to reward, all the while providing mentorship and resources for those who do set their sights on the pro and elite fields.
The “by women, for women” aspect comes into play because for this to succeed, we have to move as a bloc. We have to show up. If we do that, promoters and sponsors will put in more resources. To give women a voice, we’ll be asking the women who participated in our inaugural effort to vote on which races to include in the series next year. To give them an idea of what makes for a great racing weekend … we’re hosting the finale Saturday, 11/19, which is the first of two races being put on by the local Flatwater Cycling team.