Nambucca Valley Cycling Club women bucking gender ratio trend in cycling and proving champions

Alison Pope, Gina Scott and Kristie Neale before the 'Chicks in the Sticks' event. Photo taken by Kristie Neale.
Alison Pope, Gina Scott and Kristie Neale before the 'Chicks in the Sticks' event. Photo taken by Kristie Neale.

In a world where female participation in sport is on the rise, cycling does generally seem to be a bit of an outlier to this trend.

'Middle-aged men in lycra' (MAMILs) still dominate most races and clubs around the world.

But there's a concerted effort in the Nambucca Valley to even out the gender ratio.

"There's lots of great women riders around," secretary of the Nambucca Valley Cycle Club Alison Pope said.

"And for a mountain bike club, we have a high proportion of women."

And the supportive atmosphere they've built at the club is already proving to foster more benefits than just representation.

In August Jemma Burtonwood brought home the gold at the Woolgoolga Mountain Bike Festival in both the Masters Hill Climb and the 82km 2000vm XC Marathon.

Alison and two friends also completed in Australia's largest three-hour women's mountain bike endurance race in Brisbane in late August - Chicks In The Sticks - which attracted over 200 riders. And Alison powered home to take the silver in the 'Queens of the Coop' Over 50s category.

Alison receiving her silver medal and prize money. Gina Scott also competed in the "Queens of the Coop" category and placed 5th. Photo by Kristie Neale

Alison receiving her silver medal and prize money. Gina Scott also competed in the "Queens of the Coop" category and placed 5th. Photo by Kristie Neale

"The result was a complete surprise - totally unexpected," she said.

"I had a great race - very smooth and it felt like I was getting faster with each lap. I was well-prepared and it all came together.

"And it was a bonus getting away and having an enjoyable weekend with my friends, who also did really well."

The Redland Bay-based event - run by women, for women - attracted quite a few participants who'd never competed before.

"Research has shown the biggest motivator for women joining the sport is social time. And this was a great way to experience mountain biking in a very encouraging and supportive atmosphere. It's something we've tried to replicate in our club down here," she said.

"There were these signs placed around the track - one said 'Cycling is cheaper than therapy', which made me giggle."

Gina, Kristie and Alison had a great girls getaway

Gina, Kristie and Alison had a great girls getaway

Alison said she's only gotten into the sport relatively recently but is "slightly obsessed". As we speak she admits she's just returned from a 20km ride from Valla to Missabotti.

"But there's worse things to be obsessed by. Racing is a total buzz - an adrenaline fix. And it can take you to lots of places cars can't get to. Getting out in the fresh air in the bush is a huge part of it for me."

There are more and more female-friendly biking events popping up around the country, which perhaps proves that the tide is starting to change; next month 'Ladies of the Lake' will be held in Orange, and in March next year the Nambucca Valley Cycle Club will host their third annual 'Jills at Jacks' event at the Jacks Ridge course.

Anyone interested in joining the Nambucca Valley Cycle Club - male or female - can get in contact via their Facebook page.