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By Karen Kefauver – Sentinel Correspondent
April 29, 2011
Link to Sentinel article

Events encourage women cyclistsMay is National Bike Month and Santa Cruz County cyclists have a packed schedule of events to look forward to during the next few weeks. Ranging from bike races to recreational rides, the lineup includes the Amgen Tour of California, the Strawberry Fields Forever Ride, the Scotts Valley Grand Prix and the Xterra Triathlon [with the mountain bike portion at Wilder Ranch State Park].

Despite the different types of riding involved, all these events have something in common: More men than women will participate.

That’s because, overall, more guys than gals bicycle for fun and for competition

Fortunately, there are a number of committed folks who are dedicated to encouraging more women to enter the sport. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with some of these movers and shakers about both the incentives and the barriers to getting more women into cycling.


The Sea Otter Classic is one of the largest cycling festivals in the world. Yet, it lists 88 percent of its registered athletes for all events as male, according to athlete director Jeff Frost.

Those numbers helped inspire Frank Yohannan — a founder and current director of Sea Otter Classic — to take action. So, in an effort to bring more women to the four-day bike event, held earlier this month at Laguna Seca near Monterey, he launched “Ladies’ Activities” with Lorri Lee Lown, the founder of Velo Girls. The effort to attract more women was originally called “Ladies Day at Sea Otter,” and it was slated to include free admission for women, as well as a day of activities geared toward women. After an outcry from the National Men’s Coalition and a threat of a lawsuit, however, the free admission offer was extended to men as well.

The full program of women’s activities went ahead as planned nonetheless. It included bike skills clinics, sessions on nutrition and a wine-and-chocolate reception. One of the highlights was a panel of five women in the bike industry discussing the state of the industry. [I had the privilege of moderating this panel as a volunteer].

In particular, the panelists — including women’s product managers from Trek and Specialized — agreed that just having a women’s day at a major national bike festival was an important step. By learning together, without fear of being judged by guys they are more likely to overcome feeling intimidated by trying the sport.

Yohannan was listening. He pledged Ladies Activities would return and be bigger and better in 2012.


While Sea Otter took that step to boost the profile of women in cycling, Mark Davis of Syzygy Sports Group in Scotts Valley is doing his part to support and grow women’s road racing on the other side of the county with the second annual Scotts Valley Grand Prix.

Women’s bicycle racing has traditionally lagged behind men’s racing in size of the fields, number of events, sponsorship and race prizes and money. But the Scotts Valley Grand Prix will offer a larger purse for its women’s elite race than the men’s.

Davis also pointed out that the May 15 event happens the same day as Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California. As the nation’s biggest and most prestigious stage race for professional male cyclists, the TOC does not have an equivalent race for women, which underscores the inequality of opportunities for women in the sport.

“We give the pro women top billing,” Davis said. “They work hard and train long, hard hours.”

On the bright side for pro women racers this year, the Amgen Tour of California Women’s International Time Trial Challenge will debut in Solvang on May 20. Women will race the same course as the Stage 6 men’s individual time trial. The women’s event will be a 12-person invitational, featuring some of the best female athletes in the world racing for a $10,000 prize purse.

I will be cheering for those women racers, and you can bet I will be cheering even more loudly when sponsors step up to create a Tour of California stage race for women.

Karen Kefauver is a freelance journalist specializing in sports and travel stories. Based in Santa Cruz, she is an avid mountain biker and road bike rider. Contact her at www.karenkefauver.com.

Upcoming events

Scotts Valley Grand Prix
DETAILS: May 15, Canepa Design, 4900 Scotts Valley Drive, www.scottsvalleygrandprix.com

Strawberry Fields Forever
DETAILS: May 15, Three routes of 25 miles, 100 kilometers and 100 miles, Starts and ends at Pajaro Valley High School, www.strawberryfields.org

Xterra Pacific Championship events
DETAILS: May 15-16, www.xterraplanet.com

Amgen Tour of California
DETAILS: May 15-22, www.amgentourofcalifornia.com

Bike Week Santa Cruz
DETAILS: May 9-15, www.bike2work.com

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