Posted by Stephanie Chase (Racing Correspondent) on July 23rd, 2007 at 10:26 am
[Updated at 12:39pm]
The local road racing community is worried about the decline in the number of women racers. To reverse the trend, they’ve stepped up their outreach efforts and launched an online survey find out the cause.
The number of women racers has dwindled so much in recent months that some race organizers have had to combine small fields to be able to run their events.
Mike Murray with the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) says that while the number of purchased memberships is on the rise, women’s participation in some local events is on a downward trend.
Of the total OBRA membership, slightly more than 15% are women (which equates to 400 members).
The declines, however, have not been consistent throughout each category nor at every race. Clark Ritchie, who organizes the popular Mt. Tabor Series noted an increase among entry-level (Category 4) women in contrast to lower numbers in the senior women’s field.
At the Monday Night Racing Series held at Portland International Raceway (PIR), the number of women in the novice fields has been on a steady decline.
Jim Anderson, the man behind the PIR series, worries that the novice field will no longer be part of the series if more women do not come out to race. As this is one of the few true “novice” races for women in the Portland area, it would be a great loss for the racing community.
Tonight at PIR: Ladies Night
In response, Anderson is holding a special “Ladies Night” event tonight to bolster attendance. Race organizers have partnered up with Hillsboro-based cycling apparel retailer Team Estrogen to offer $10 gift certificates for each female entrant. Top finishers in the night’s races will also receive a pair of Teva clogs.
A clinic for first-time racers will kick of the event at 5:45 tonight.
In another attempt to encourage more women to race and understand the needs of current racers, a group of local women cyclists have put together an online survey.
Local racer Uma Kleppinger says she helped put the survey together to,
“try to gather more specific information about why women race or not, and what factors contribute to which races women participate in.”
Another effort to bolster the ranks of women racers is a series of “Meet the Team” and women specific rides scheduled for this fall (more info here). The rides are a joint effort by several local teams and are designed to introduce women to group and team riding in a non-competitive environment (the rides will have a “no-drop” policy).
Despite these efforts, the reason for the decline of women racers remains unclear. It’s obvious that there is a substantial reservoir of women who are interested in racing; the issue is now how best to activate them. Any attempts to help this part of the community grow are beneficial for OBRA, racers and the women themselves.
To learn more about these and other women’s racing opportunities, read the the OBRA email list.
Also, don’t forget to take the Oregon Women’s Bike Racing survey.