Colorado’s First Women-Only MTB Race Gets Rolling
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After a stellar debut in 2010, the Beti Bike Bash, a women's only mountain bike race, is back for more next year. The 2011 race, presented by Stan's NoTubes, will be held near Morrison, Colorado on Sunday, June 12. I caught up with founder, Amy Thomas, to talk about next year's pro line up and what it's like to put on Colorado's first women-only event. Sorry men!
What needs to change in women's mountain biking?
The opportunities for beginner women to get involved in racing are difficult to find. Mountain biking is an intimidating sport, and racing is even more intimidating for a beginner. Here in Colorado we contend with high alpine courses that are technical and physically demanding. It's what attracts many of us to the sport, but at the same time it isn't inviting for a beginner.
There should be equal media coverage for professional women's cycling. Media attention equates to sponsorship dollars. Most pro women I know still have day jobs which distracts from their focus of training and racing. It hurts the sport that they can't concentrate on riding 100% and truly hit their potential as a cyclist. Women's cycling is very exciting to watch, yet you don't see it on TV and its very rarely streamed live online.
What does the Beti Bash do to help women's mountain biking?
When we first thought about the goals of the Beti Bike Bash, we incorporated all of our shared experiences from racing, good and bad. We really wanted to break down the excuses that women might have for not trying a mountain bike race. We see women out riding the trails all the time but noticed they weren't on starting lines.
The race is close to Denver to keep travel costs down. We designed a course that was physically challenging–one that every woman could finish. And we keep the overall cost down by having the team do most of the work. Chelsea does the race website, Sarah helps with promoting and sponsorship via BigFoot Productions, Kelli volunteers her time with USA Cycling as an official on race day, and the rest of the Betis pour their energy into various pre-race and race day operations. Everyone has a job with the race.
Why did you start this?
We saw the need. The Danskin Triathlon series has been successful for so long, why can't mountain biking do something similar? Not everyone starts out as a expert or pro. Ideally everyone should have their first race be a positive experience so they come back again. Based on the courses we were racing, doing one lap on Colorado course is hard, and we figured if we thought it was hard, it might be impossible for a beginner woman. Even worse would be that they had a miserable time and never do another MTB race.
Is there a Beti Bash Team? If so how do you get involved?
There is the YetiBeti team. We are a team of nine women, racing mostly cross country and endurance mountain bike races. Besides putting on the Beti Bike Bash, we offer beginner clinics throughout the summer and will have them posted at www.yetibeti.com.
What are the categories for the Beti Bash?
We are sanctioned through USA Cycling, so Category 3 (beginner), Category 2 (sport), Category 1 (expert), Professional, and Single Speed. For Cat 2 and 3 we'll have 10-year age groups. The Pros, Cat 1, and SS without age groups to make it more competitive. We also have junior beginner and sport categories, 14 and under, 15-18.
Are you expecting a big pro field? Who's coming?
We really want to showcase the sport's best talent in front of the newest racers in the sport. Last year the amateurs told us they want to see the pros, so this year we are offering a sizable cash purse for the pro women. Stan's NoTubes has stepped up their support and we offering $1000 for first place and will pay 10 deep. We are hoping this attracts top pros who will already be here racing at TEVA Games in Vail and the Pro XCT race in Colorado Springs. Colorado will be the place to be in June for these women.
Rebecca Rusch (Specialized/SRAM) has not only committed to coming, but we're working on putting together a MTB clinic the day before. Last year's National Marathon MTB Champion Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek) also has the race on her radar.
Will they hold clinics?
Rebecca had expressed wanting to do something to help other than just show up and race. Details are still being hammered out, but it's looking promising that we'll be offering a clinic and ride the day before with Rebecca.
Was 2010 the second year for this event?
Yes! Last year we had 170 finishers, 90 of them were beginners. We are anticipating the number to double for the amateurs.
I see that you are sponsoring M2M. Why them? How did you meet Shannon Galpin?
I met Shannon last summer at Breck Epic. I only knew vaguely about M2M before meeting her. The work that M2M is doing for women and girls Afghanistan is what initially inspired us. Shannon's use of riding a bike to help deliver the message also captured our attention because the riding there is not only illegal for women, but extremely dangerous. Many of the Betis work in non-profit and health care and so we understand Shannon's work there being overwhelmingly needed.
The team wanted to see how we could use the Beti Bike Bash to raise awareness about M2M so we met with Shannon and brainstormed. Twenty-five percent of this year's proceeds will go to M2M's programs. Each woman racing in the Beti Bike Bash will aide in women's freedoms in Afghanistan. And maybe even one day they too can ride a bike as freely and happily as we do.
Do you pick an event or cause to support each year?
Yes, if you can raise awareness and money by riding a bike, why not?
Why a women's only event?
It's women only because we felt that was one barrier that was preventing women from racing mountain bikes. A women's only event has a different vibe than when it's co-ed. It's very positive for everyone involved.
Have you gotten any push back from men?
If anything last year there was initial conflict with another popular race on the same day. But this year we moved the day from Saturday to Sunday to hopefully alleviate that issue. We had husbands and boyfriends not only encourage their woman to sign up, but were there on race day cheering and helping. Most of our volunteers were men!
What is the single most important thing to include in the Beti Bash course?
Safety. We had great course marshaling so no one got lost. If someone was hurt or had a mechanical, there were marshals there quickly to help. We had very few DNF's.
What about the goodie bag?
I might be biased, but our goodie bag was awesome. For a $40 entry, you got at least $200+ worth of goods. Super cool Twin6 official race tee, EcoMetro guide, ShePedals magazine, Tokyo Joe's coupons, samples of sport nutrition, mix1 drinks, and several women's specific products. This year's swag bag will be just as good if not better.
What is your involvement with She Pedals?
I found about the existence of ShePedals magazine and thought it would be perfect addition for the race. I emailed Dena the editor and she mailed us 200 magazines.
Do you race?
I started alpine ski racing when I was 12, then dabbled in triathlon in the early '90s, road racing, and finally mountain biking. I've been racing so long I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I stopped.
How has mountain biking made a difference in your life?
It's introduced to me to everything happy in my life. It's a lifestyle and riding is like breathing for me. I have to do it everyday. I will often times substitute skiing for riding in the winter though. I'm a fair weather rider!
Do you ride women's specific gear?
Does a bra count? Hmmm…..shoes, clothes.
Photographs by Mark Woolcott photography