Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Creating Community in Womens Cycling

Last night I had the pleasure of being a keynote speaker at the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado (BRAC) Womens Cycling Summit. The following is the speech I delivered to a standing room only of primarily female racers in the Front Range. is publishing it to their site today, which I'm pretty excited about. But more than anything, I am honored to be a part of this community and making a difference in something I feel passionate about.

Good Evening!

It's always striking to me how unrecognizable people are outside of their cycling clothing. You look oddly familiar... mind pulling your hair back, sticking a helmet on and covering your face with glasses? Ah! That's it! That's where I know you from!

Thank you all for taking time out your busy schedules to meet tonight in honor of BRAC and our cycling community. Despite having Thanksgiving on the brain and I'm sure a lot of last minute preparations. It's nice to see so many people here in honor of our amazing community.

Tonight I am going to do an introduction of myself, how I was asked to be the keynote speaker, and then focus on community. Specifically, the little steps we can all take to grow from a participation standpoint as well as how we can enhance the values of our community. And lastly, a call to action.

For those who I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet, my name is Jennifer Triplett and I race cat 2 road, cat 1 track, novice mountain and cross. I am relatively new to the front range area, and live in COS. I moved here to remove a fender rain bike from my quiver, train at altitude and let's face it: for love. I am a co-active coach and love to inspire others to live the life of their dreams, what ever that may be.

A little over a month ago, Clint Bickmore, the ACA President and I were formally introduced at the USA Cycling Coaching summit. I told him about my involvement with the WSBA and MVA in Washington and told him I'd love to get involved. He put me in touch Rachel Scott and Susan Adamkovics to see how I could get involved with the upcoming Womens Summit. I also mentioned in passing that I enjoy public speaking, gulp, and well, here I am.

My background is in boxing. However, getting hit in the face lost its appeal over time and I started looking for a new sport. A friend suggested I start commuting to work via bike and sign up for the Seattle to Portland ride. That sparked a beautiful relationship between myself and bikes. I found I enjoyed passing most men and decided to give racing a try. I spent the past 7 years racing in the soggy NW, where despite the weather they have a thriving community of female racers.

When I first started, I explored team options via meet the team rides in the fall and found a group of women who were all new to the sport and wanted to try racing. Starbucks was our sponsor. I thrived in this environment, quickly advancing through the ranks and immediately looked toward for leadership. A friend suggested I run for the Marymoor Velodrome Association board to be a female voice so I did.

Somewhat intimidated by learning a new skill on a bike without brakes, I started track racing my first year and loved it. Even though you're on a bike without brakes, you also only make left hand turns and as it turns out, I can sprint. I found myself wanting to take things to the next level and raced at regional events and found myself that first year at Nationals.

Looking back, I notice a recurring theme for myself: that I'm not afraid to try anything. I recall going to Alpenrose with its concrete 47 degree banking, large and deep fields (with several Olympians in the mix) and figuring, why not? We all start somewhere. That attitude also got me into trouble as I thought jumping in also meant attacking from the gun. Keep in mind there were Olympians in the group... and well, next thing I know I'm being lapped and discouraged. Not knowing what to do, I rolled off the track before the end of the race, started crying and called my mom. She reminded me, Jennifer! Look at where you are! You're brand new and racing against experienced women. Wipe those tears away and jump back in.

Flash forward a few years, which included wins, losses, injuries, and more community involvement. The MVA established a women's development fund, grew field sizes so we actually had to split cat 4 women categories into two per night. We even started a movement for holding a womens Madison at the Grand Prix each year and had more womens team then men. We were taking action and made a difference in our community. 

Then the unthinkable happened in 2008. My husband died in a tragic rock climbing accident. Life as I knew it was forever changed. And although I stuck around Seattle for 3 years after, I knew it was time to change my environment. Thankfully I had cycling to lean on. Not only from a physical activity but from a community perspective. They were there for me on a deeper level then I knew. I was just racing my bike, just being myself, but when I needed people, they responded with love and generosity. It was hard to leave that community but I knew it was time for my own growth.  Here I am now, in Colorado, establishing a link to a new community.

So when I say community, I say it with great intention and value. It is a support network, a gathering of like minded people. People who I can race against and have fun. That I can laugh with and cry.

Being new to this community, I want to make an impact. I want to see it grow and strengthen. So,how do we grow this community? How do we attract more women?

I posed this question to my friend Nicola Cranmer, Exergy Professional Cycling Women Director, and she said that although women represent only 15% of the USAC license holders, there's something to be said about the quality. Look at the Olympics for example. The medals were won by women. It's not just about quantity, it's quality.

On a grassroots level, there are little things we can do to welcome new faces. Think about it, women's racing is super intimidating. Seeing teams all dressed the same and not very friendly is like being thrown to a pack of wolves. I highly recommend being welcoming to a new face, introducing yourself and going going out of your way. That little engagement, such as helping pin numbers on for someone, can make a massive difference in whether they ever show up again. On group rides, seek out those new faces, welcome them.  Encourage them to come back.

If we want to grow our community, then we all need to do our part. I challenge each of you at each race to find one new person, introduce yourself and make a connection.

Back to when Clint and I were talking about women's sport, he mentioned that although small in numbers, women are often the loudest voices. We want more categories, equal pay, neutral support and a list of other things. And I'm sure we could brainstorm a long list tonight of the things we would like to improve women's cycling. But in order for change to happen we need action from those voices. So I have another challenge, another opportunity to grow our community from within. And that is for every idea, for every voice heard in this room, that each of you, each of those voices commit to one action. One thing that resonates where you think change needs to happen, regardless of size or impact, to improve womens cycling.

I also propose we start meaningful conversations. A gathering where we can brainstorm ideas and things we want to see change, pick a specific topic and then focus on it.

Together, we can make a difference. And I look forward to seeing each of your contributions enhance our community.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Nrjetik1 said...

thank you for your hard work, positive outlook and love for our sport! you KNOW I understand your passion first hand..From the heart we go forward xxx from your friend in Belgium