Cycletta North, the womens-only 40km cycling event took place yesterday at Tatton Park, Cheshire and the day was a great success. It was quite an inspirational sight to see over 800 women together on the start-line, most of whom had never taken part in a cycling event before.
I had offered to help out at the event as a 'Miss Motivator' and mobile support - basically riding the course, offering encouragement to the riders and being on hand to fix punctures and other small tasks that didn't require the help of a full-on mechanic.
I have to say that prior to the event, despite my offer to help out, I had my reservations about the whole Cycletta set-up because the entry fee was so expensive compared to other 'non-gender specific' sportives (initially advertised at £45) but I wanted to offer my support anyway because there just aren't enough womens events out there and I feel that any events company trying to change that deserves to be supported.
Initially the event was advertised as 'closed-road', which partially justified the high entry fee of £45. Lots of my local female cycling friends decided not to enter the event due to the high cost and the ones that did enter were pretty disappointed to hear that a number of weeks before the event the organisers lost the closed-road status. To reflect this, the entry fee was reduced by a fiver to £40, but to many entrants the closed-road status was the main selling point of this event, so it was hard to see how Cycletta could still justify the high price-tag and make this event something special - even the draw of cycling alongside event patron Victoria Pendleton didn't seem quite worth 40 quid.
Well I can happily report that I was proved wrong and my skepticism was completely unfounded because as cycling events go it was probably one of the best-organised I've attended. As soon as I arrived at the event it was pretty obvious to see where much of the entry fee had been spent as the organisers had created a cycling village with a cafe area, bike mechanics, shops and a post-race pampering tent all geared up toward women cyclists, creating a friendly pre and post ride environment with a really sociable vibe.
The fairly flat course was really suited to first-time eventers with only one or two challenging hills and a small amount of traffic to deal with. It was well signposted with marshalls at every junction and a further three marshalls patrolling the course on motorbikes. The two feed stations (rare to get two over a 40km distance) were pretty well-stocked with fruit, energy drinks and hi-carb snacks.
As I rode around the course chatting to the riders everyone was in really high spirits and enjoying the event. Many of the women were doing the ride for charity with groups of friends and colleagues and the relaxed atmosphere was a welcome world away from the usually more competitive 'heads down' approach of many other sportives. At the second feed station I stopped for a while to have a chat with some of the riders and despite a few sore bums and tired legs all of the comments were really positive. Most were thrilled to discover that they only had 5 more miles to go to the finish but all said they'd had a really great day and that they'd be keen to sign up again next year.
It was also great to see patron Victoria Pendleton - fresh from her gold medal winning performance at the national track championships the night before - staying around for the whole event, hanging out in the cycling village after riding the course, signing autographs and posing for photos.
Cycletta has definitely filled a female-shaped gap in the cycling event world and I hope this year's events are the first of many more to come - keep up the good work guys!