Adding a Women's Field Changes Everything
As a racer who typically competes in women’s fields, in prior years racing at Floyd Bennett Field meant a long and treacherous drag down Flatbush, scrambling to make the start of the men’s fields (the only fields on offer) all in the name of racing on a slightly treacherous abandoned air strip where the most likely outcome, in my experience, was getting dropped from that men’s field within the first few minutes. Or maybe, depending on the pace of the field and your dedication to training, you worked your way up to hang in for the duration of the men’s race - but it was just that, fighting for space just to hang in.
Racing as a female (or WTF) athlete in the men’s fields can have its benefits, and it's something that I personally like to take advantage of from time to time. Racing at speed, practicing moving around in larger pelotons, experiencing frequently aggressive tactics: these are things that, at times, help make me a better racer and prepare me for competing against domestic elite teams in big professional criteriums. But using men’s fields for training is something that WTF racers should be able to choose to do, rather than have it forced upon them by races that do not offer any women’s fields.
Around NYC, cyclists are lucky to have multiple weekday races available during the warmer months of the year (though we have been losing some of these opportunities). But for WTF riders, the only mid-week option with our own field has historically been at the Kissena velodrome - it’s great, but outside of the track there hasn’t been any road option on offer. If I decide I need some practice being more aggressive or racing at a higher overall sustained tempo, I might CHOOSE to race Rockleigh for its good warm up and cool down miles plus consistently hard pace, or i might CHOOSE to take the drag down Flatbush to practice positioning myself in the men’s peloton to hide from wind at FBF. But there was never any option to race fast and aggressively against my actual peers. And that is why the new women’s field at FBF - added this year - is so important.
It should be no surprise that women are showing up week after week and providing a really competitive and fun level of racing. Ginger Boyd discussed in her Journal entry why threatening WTF racers is not the answer, ending her piece with the sentiment ‘if you build it they will come’. The turnout at Floyd the past few weeks seems to be textbook evidence of that. We are showing up week after week in solid numbers and giving each other quite the competition for jerseys and race wins. And guess what, nobody even needed to lose to the opportunity to race in order for us to have the chance. It all feels so simple.
I personally work long hours that mostly preclude me from enjoying the weekly trek out to Brooklyn, but I was able to make the trip a few weeks ago, and beyond the racing itself - which as always was hard and full of tactics that seem to differ from our regular weekly jaunts in Central Park - I was pretty overcome with joy to see the camaraderie that existed among the women’s peloton before and after the race.
During the race, we were fierce competitors, from a mix of different teams, subteams, or affiliations. But beforehand everyone half nervously joked around or helped each other with the inevitable mechanical encountered from riding down Flatbush and afterwards we all immediately congregated, congratulated one another and pretty quickly started discussing where the post race beers and hangs would occur. It was a pretty wonderful experience for a Tuesday night in NYC amidst the setting sun, getting to catch up with people I have been racing alongside for years or hang out with those I rarely engage with outside of post-race pleasantries, over some beers and Mcdonalds fries. I made it home past my normal weekday bedtime still a little abuzz from the race and positive energy and ready to skip out of work at the next chance I get on a hot and sunny Tuesday evening.