What a difference a day makes.

Twenty-four little hours … well maybe a bit longer than that, but in my last blog, you may have read about the pathway the UCI has set out for Junior Women’s races. It will be two years until they have a World Cup and three years until a standard Junior Women’s category is introduced, giving very little encouragement for the riders now and to keep those riders in the sport to fill our U23 category.

Apologizing to the Junior girls just didn’t seem enough and so some long-term scheming has turned into something incredibly exciting for me and hopefully to the Junior women.

After having contacted a few races about the possibility of a Junior Women’s race at their event with no interest, an off-the-cuff email made its way straight to the right ears at the right time and the Helen 100 trophy was born.

Another Step for Equality at Loenhout

Twenty years ago this year, Loenhout had the first ever UCI Women’s race. This was before we had a World Cup, before we had a world championship, basically when men were men and women weren’t invented.

As a way to celebrate their brave move in supporting women’s ’cross, 20 years later they will have the first ever Junior Women’s stand-alone race in Belgium.

That’s right, an actual race for Junior (and 14 to 16-year-old) women.

Their own start time, their own battle, their own prize fund (equal to the Junior men, obviously), their own race length (equal to the Junior men, obviously) their own winner and their own podium (with more goodies than the Junior men, sorry).

As you may be able to tell, I am really excited about this. I know I wouldn’t have been able to make the connections and cover the costs of running the event if it wasn’t for the extra donations we received from the women at The Fifth Floor, a London cycling club.

The Helen 100 was initially set up to encourage as many female riders under the age of 23 across all ages to enter the British National Championships by covering their entry fees.

In the same way that American cyclocross can be really pricey, I felt that sometimes this could be a barrier to entry and also by creating something different and a little bit special the young riders might be encouraged more. After raising enough through crowdfunding to cover this, I was able to use the extra donation for something more, hence the Junior Women’s race at Loenhout was born.

This is going to be amazing, I’m going earlier than I usually would just so I can watch it. Daphny Van Der Brand and Hanka Kupfernagel will be there to present prizes and celebrate 20 years of Women’s UCI racing.

Loenhout Junior Women Race Preview

There are already 34 young women signed up to the event. Although being ambitious, I want 50.

So if you are a young woman between 14 and 18 years old and are around in Belgium over the Christmas period, please please sign up. It will be amazing to be able to race only your peers, people who normally are all mixed up with the Elites.

I know there are a lot of incredibly good Juniors who can mix it up with us but imagine how exciting it will be to see them battle each other, a proper showdown.

Who has the best bunny hopping skills? The Dutch Puck Pieterse or the British Amy Perryman? Can Harriet Harnden’s British mud plugging power overcome the super fast Swiss junior, Noemi Ruegg?

Harriet Harnden and other young riders will be mixing it up in Loenhout. U23 Women. 2018 UCI Cyclocross World Championships, Valkenburg-Limburg, The Netherlands. © Bart Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Harriet Harnden and other young riders will be mixing it up in Loenhout. U23 Women. 2018 UCI Cyclocross World Championships, Valkenburg-Limburg, The Netherlands. © Bart Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

As I wouldn’t want to be entirely biased towards how amazing our young British riders are, I’m going to stop the comparisons there … Maddie Wadsworth … and I’m sure there are many Belgian and Dutch riders I’ve just never been able to see race who could match the more well-known riders when in their own race.

Not forgetting the Nieuwlingen Meisjes and a certain Zoe Backstedt, whose mum was a ridiculously good road pro (road World Cup podium rider) when I first started racing and whose dad has, well, won a few things too I guess.

I’m probably going on a bit now, but basically please support this is any way you can, from watching if you happen to be in Belgium—10 a.m. start, December 28—or just showing the love on social media or by telling everyone who’s able to race to be there.

If we can make this a success then I honestly believe it doesn’t have to be a one-off. After all you guys know me by now, I have my mum’s genes and being passive when it comes to equality just isn’t an option for my brain!

Other Exciting News

In other exciting news, I won a couple of races in the Basque Country, which was as always awesome. One of them was proper mud racing and the other was a fantastic battle with Aida Nuño Palacio on a hilly grassy race.

I miss mud racing.

We traveled down to the south of Spain for a training camp and deserved weekend off, although I did do some co-commentary on the GCN coverage of Essen cyclocross.

We had planned to then go back home to France via a weekend of racing in Valencia. Unfortunately, the second day was cancelled, so instead I decided it would be fun for Stef to drive the camper to the Czech Republic and Austria for a weekend of racing. Alonso hasn’t been to Austria yet, so it made perfect sense for Stef to drive 2,800km while I fly there.

Plus, I get the bonus of visiting a proper Christmas market in Salzburg. I can not wait.

‘Til then.


Featured image: Gavin Gould