A couple of years ago, my girlfriends and I entered the Enduro mountain bike race. It was tough to get out and train over the summer months due to the school holidays, but we cycled frequently, and we were very much looking forward to the event. We named our all-girl team “Tour de Force.” We were up early on race day, and we were all pretty nervous, not as much banter as usual.
We arrived, took the bikes out and waited at the start line. What was the most striking thing? No girls, really few females, it was an all-male environment, and we completely stood out. On some part of the race, someone called out, “The chicken run is to the left, girls.” There are jumps on certain tracks in mountain biking for those of you who are not aware, and you can choose not to go on those jumps and cycle alongside on the flat path known as “The Chicken Run.” As accomplished cyclists who have been mountain biking for years, we are very capable and bombed along the jumps and obstacles. The day after the race, I checked the results board, and it confirmed my suspicions; in total, there was a 7% female contingent.
Professionally, at the time, I was having a similar experience. As a back to work mum, searching for roles in sales and marketing to fit around my home life was daunting, to say the least. Roles at a level suitable to my experience and skill set were simply not available with the hours I needed. Flicking through local business magazines, I struggled to spot a female face.
Where have all the girls gone?
Living in the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley, I have to say, from experience, that the cycling is some of the best in the country, indeed the world. I now have a local “tribe” of girlfriends to cycle with, and we have amazing adventures in our gorgeous landscape. When we return from a cycle, it feels as though we have been on a mini-holiday, and we have really connected through our love of cycling. Out shared experiences range from escaping bulls and badger spotting to discovering our local villages and woods, happening across amazing buildings, architecture and scenery.
I am an advocate of cycling for many reasons, it’s my go-to self-care activity, and I believe the benefits of cycling are plenty both mentally and physically.
At work, I have done the same, forming Career Voyage. We specialise in helping ladies over the age of 50 find their place in the world of work. A place that compliments their priorities and enables them to lead a life they love. That could support deciding a new career path, looking at flexible working or job share opportunities and less traditional ways of working such as job shares, interim roles or even self-employment.
Three years after the male-dominated Enduro race, and I am racing again. I am competing in the Ladies Do Downhill. It’s on my bucket list, and I think I’ll do this, and that will be it, but you never know I might get the bug and continue. I am in the grand vet (over 50s) category; there isn’t an over 60 (super vet) category for women – so I might need to race again in another 6 years.
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