With the spring on its way we caught up with Lauren Kirchel. Lauren rides for Chelmer CC and is currently prepping to take on the co-ordination of the Eastern Ladies Road Race League. The league has been running since 2014 and was set up by Tanya Griffiths. Tanya has done phenomenal amounts for women's cycling in the region over the last 3 years in the post and Lauren hope to continue on the solid foundations that she has forged. We wanted to take the opportunity to see what is on offer for ladies cycling in the Eastern region and how you can get involved!
So Lauren, how busy is the ladies race calendar?
There are 11 road races/crits and loads of Time Trials with in excess of 20 qualifying events in the Eastern region. They are held all over; from Hog Hill in Redbridge throughout Essex to Norwich and Norfolk, so there is something for everyone!
Can anyone join the league or do you have to be a member of a club or British cycling first?
The league is open to all women who love racing their bike and who love the idea of racing but just need a little nudge to take the plunge. You have to be at least a junior rider (over 16) but there are certain circumstances where under 16s can compete. We have a road race league which incorporates races on road circuits and also some closed circuit criteriums. We also have a TT league for which the qualifying races are all over the eastern region and there's a separate league for those who want to try out Time Trialling before investing in all the kit so we have a novice league too. You do need a British Cycling race licence though in order to compete, this can be for a full year or per race if you want to try it out.
Lined up and ready. Racing can look intimidating, but its not as bad as it looks!
If a rider is a bit nervous about it and maybe hasn’t raced before are there any sessions where they can learn the ropes?
We've always held training sessions in the early season and hopefully this year won't be any different. We tend to hold these on a closed crit circuit and a coach will guide keen racers through what to expect. We are looking at organising one for this year before the races start. But if you're interested in racing and can't wait for a training session there are lots of 'go ride' races put on by British Cycling or the TLI series at North Weald which is really friendly and doesnt require a BC licence. These are usually on closed circuits like Hog Hill and anyone can enter (they're a bit less daunting than a road race or crit!) The only thing I would advise though is that you're confident riding in a group before starting.
So what is it about racing that gets you hooked?
I know it's a huge cliché but you can't really describe it and if you ask anyone to describe it then they'll all describe it differently! I suppose everything that road racing, crits and time trials have in common is the pre race thrill where there's a load of tension and nerves. I've only raced one time trial (badly) and the thrill is watching to see where you place in comparison to everyone else and finding out, as well as the beginning and coming into the finish. That's completely different to road racing where the race is constantly changing with breaks, surges and team tactics. Then there's my favourite part of a road race... the sprint. You never know what's going to happen and you only have one chance to get into a good position if you can which I think is the most exciting thing but until you start racing you'll never be able to discover the thrill!
Chasing out of corners, nothing quite like racing!
Is the Eastern racing scene pretty healthy?
This year there are more women's only road races in the Eastern region than in the North West, which has been at the forefront of the Women's Racing scene over the last few years. It's so encouraging that organisers are supporting women's racing all over the country which means that there are more races for women in general. Over the last few years we've had to travel further to race frequently and it's brilliant that there are more races being put on at a regional level. It is quite a risk for any organiser to put on a new race and sometimes due to national clashes the regional races lose out on entries. But the growing women's racing scene should help reduce that happening over the next few years. We just need organisers to have faith that what they do now will pay off in the very near future but it's easier said than done with what goes into organising a race! Time trials are slightly different in that there are very few women's only races due to the nature of time trialling but the women's scene is definitely improving here too.
So what’s the best way to get involved?
You just need to apply for a race licence via British Cycling if you've never raced before. And then sign up to the league and then start entering races! We award points for the top finishers who have entered the league and these are added up over the season. We take the best 6 results if you've raced in more races than this. The first race is the Ipswich BC spring scramble on 19th March and you can also join the league after this if you want to have a go at road racing and are not sure whether you'll like it. Our first TT event is the Sudbury CC hilly TT.
There are lots more photos and ways to get in touch on the fb page: @werlcycling and on the website www.womenseasternracingleague.co.uk/