Location: Fort Washington, PA
Date: 8/6, 8/13, 8/20
Type: Criterium and skills clinic
Riders: Shannon Grieb and Deborah Leedale-Brown
The Battle for Fort Washington is a training race series that focused on women and new riders. A project of First States Cycling Alliance, this fun three-week series enabled first time racers and veterans to enjoy a fun and challenging course.
I showed up the first night not quite knowing what to expect. Everyone was so friendly and I knew that this was going to be a fun night. I knew many of the people there and it was great to meet other women new to racing. Each night held three races – the B race (men’s 4/5 and women’s 3/4), the women’s race (women’s 3/4 ), and the A race (men’s 2/3/4 and women’s open). After the races there was an off-course clinic and seminar. Even though this was a training series, there were officials and official results.
I participated in the women’s 3/4 race each week. The first night there was well over 25 women in the field, a mix of race veterans and first-timers. Joe Wentzell of Breakaway Bikes gave us instruction and the race began with two neutral laps. After the neutral laps the race was on! The course was a .09 mile circuit with a challenging, steady uphill and short, fast downhill. This uphill quickly broke the pack apart. During the race, Joe and his helpers rode with us, giving us valuable instruction and keeping the race together. For those that fell off, they were pulled off to the side and allowed to reenter the race to optimize the amount of time spent in the pack to help get the best experience for beginners. They were clear in telling us that this does not happen in a “real” race. The second and third week also had strong women’s fields and similar assistance and instruction.
Deb joined the women’s 3/4 race on the last night, using it to warm up and graciously volunteering to help coach the newer racers. I know I benefitted from her instruction. She then raced the A race and I believe was the only woman in the field.
After the race each week a skills clinic and seminar was held on the grass off of the course. Joe Wentzell and his team led the first two weeks. We practiced bumping, look-backs, track stands and bumping tires. The third and final clinic was held by Dana Walton of Walton Endurance. She set up a mock, six-turn criterium in the grass and held a series of skills exercises and two mock races! Before we raced on the grass she gave us helpful tips and encouragement.
It was a fun three weeks and such a wonderful event for those that are new to racing. The skills clinics were a nice bonus and led by two world champions! It offered a safe environment and I believe they accomplished the goal of getting new riders, and especially women, excited about racing!
ALL PHOTO CREDIT TO BOB WELLMON!!