We've all given it some thought at some point in our cycling lives: Should I enter a competitive race?
Riding bikes is great fun for a whole host of reasons: social, fitness, exploring and freedom. Regardless of your preferred cycling discipline, entering a race can seem intimidating at first, but it's a great way of adding a new element to your riding.
For those of you that have considered racing, but have your reservations, this piece will surely inspire you to give it a go. We caught up with three passionate mountain biking women, who have teamed up together under the name of 'Velocity Vixens' to make their entry into competitive events.
They rode at round one of the Welsh Gravity Enduro earlier this month, and have shared the story of how they got on to inspire more women to give racing a chance...
Who Are The Velocity Vixens?
"Mountain biking became an integral part of my life - and my only regret is that I didn’t start sooner!" - Becky
BECKY: After a complete career change in her 30's, Becky dedicated her career and time to the outdoors which is where she feels happiest. Having acquired a number of qualifications and a degree, Becky is now an outdoor activity instructor. From there, it didn't take long for her to get stuck in with muddy fun of mountain biking, and fall in love with the sport.
After completing her first MTB race last year, and overcoming her own reservations, Becky felt inspired to encourage more women to ride, and race. Along with her two riding friends, Jeannette and Leah, Becky and the girls created the 'Velocity Vixens' group.
"I mountain bike because I love it, not because I'm good at it" - Jeannette
JEANNETTE: After suffering with a long illness, Jeanette started riding her mountain bike. Five years on, she still loves every bit of it. Like so many of us, Jeannette works full time which means the weekends are hers to shred those trails and have some fun.
"I set up a girl biking group where I found my team mates (The Velocity Vixens), and this is the best thing that could of happened" - Leah
LEAH: After moving to North Wales, Leah found herself becoming more adventurous and wanting to improve her fitness. Although cycling with her husband was fun, it was a little above her skill level, so she decided to set up her own women's cycling group where she met Becky and Jeannette. The rest is history... in the making!
How the Team was Born...
With Becky spurring them on through her passion and energy for riding, the ladies signed up for the first round of the Welsh Gravity Enduro, at Coed Y Brenin.
After suffering a nasty fall on a downhill track, Leah was feeling the most nervous as her crash shook her confidence on the bike.
In an attempt to boost morale and invoke a strong comradery, Becky and the girls developed the name for their race adventure: Velocity Vixens. With a logo designed by Richard Nokes, Beck had some shirts designed and printed for the girls. Becky explains: "I felt this generally took the emphasis off the race, and it was my attempt to hopefully quash some of those nerves the girls were felling. I knew they were capable, and that they would enjoy the challenge - I just needed to convince them!"
Race Day Run Up
Whilst Becky and Leah managed to get some training in before the event, Jeannette was limited by time available. She even had to spend 4 weeks off the bike in the run up to the event. Jeannette explains: "Running up to the event I began to feel very nervous and apprehensive about the race. Especially as I knew that the stages contained sections that I had never managed to complete without walking bits. The lack of any sort of training also began to worry me."
With a combined effort, the girls supported one another, boosting confidence and morale with their keen excitement for what lay ahead. Becky tells us: "Once the route was made public I realised I did not know the sections well at all, which then made me nervous. But the encouragement of each other, every day, and the positivity in the group helped immensely."
As race day quickly approached, the Velocity Vixens made their way to the legendary MTB venue, Coed Y Brenin. With the sun making guest appearances throughout the day, registration opened and the girls signed in. Equipped with their start time, timer chips and number boards, they headed off to practise.
With nerves setting in a little, Jeannette explains how the practise run went: "Having a chance for a dry run at the course meant that I felt confident that I could physically cycle the distance. The stages were technical in places, but I could do most sections within each stage and would walk the short parts that were too technical, and I didn't feel comfortable."
After each of the three women had finished their dry run, it was back to the main arena for some much needed refuelling, final bike checks and socialising with the other riders. With the buzzing atmosphere, and excitement between the ladies, it was time for them to set off for Stage 1 to begin the race.
Describing their feelings throughout the stages, each had a slightly different experience. Jeannette says: "Stage 1 loomed and off I went, having the race environment meant that I did miles better than I did in the practice run, and only walked one short section, which I was really pleased about. Before I knew it, we were at Stage 3: the final leg. Crossing the finish line I was over whelmed with a sense of achievement - I had done it!"
Becky told us: "It’s amazing the adrenaline you feel as you enter a race stage. As you're riding, you are thinking of nothing but what's coming next on the trail, staying on the trail and getting to the end as quickly as you can. I did so much better in race time than in practice, and did sections I thought I couldn't do. Definitely a huge smile on my face at the end."
To show us exactly how much fun the event was, the girls even created a short video...
The Overall Verdict
With each member of the Velocity Vixens successfully completing their first MTB Enduro race, we ask what their thoughts are, and more importantly... would they do it again?
"Having such a wonderful support network made all the difference, and a potentially daunting situation became fun." - Jeannette
Jeannette tells us: "Would I do it again? Yes. Would I have tried it without the Velocity Vixens? No. The girls made me ride out of my comfort zone, and do something I wouldn't have normally done. Having such a wonderful support network made all the difference, and a potentially daunting situation became fun."
The youngest member of the group, Leah explains: "After the race I felt amazing. I was so excited and proud of what I had managed to achieve... I would definitely do this again, and I hope to take part in some of the other rounds in the series with the Velocity Vixens."
The Velocity Vixens had a great time competing in their first competitive race. By having one another for support, encouragement and friendship, it became a rewarding challenge that they thoroughly enjoyed.
If you're considering entering a race event this year, but still have your reservations, then get signed up with a friend and create your own competitive adventure. To see the Velocity Vixens journey in full, watch the video below.
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