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Flying the flag high for women riders
THE excitement emanating from the four members of the first all-female OCBC Cycle Speedway Club Championship team is palpable, and understandably so.
The Fahrenheit Performance Development Team, as they are called, are taking part in this thrilling category at the upcoming OCBC Cycle 2019 event on the weekend of May 11-12 at the Singapore Sports Hub.
Only Singapore cycling clubs can apply, with the four cyclists in each team riding a total of 10 laps in pairs around a flat 1km course along Stadium Drive. Two cyclists will first ride five laps before handing their wristbands to their other two teammates to complete the remaining five laps.
Elizabeth Hodges, 34, the team captain of the Fahrenheit Performance Development Team, started road riding in 2012 after she moved to Singapore from London.
She wants to actively promote cycling to more women here, and she outlines her vision to create a supportive community that makes women feel comfortable and safe when riding.
Some common concerns that women have are that they feel they are not skilled enough to ride competitively, or they feel apprehensive about riding in groups.
To help alleviate these fears, the Women's Cycling Project - which Ms Hodges and Martin Choo, the director of Fahrenheit Performance started - began introducing group riding and training sessions for women. After the community became more established, they got the faster riders to form a team and compete in races.
Asked about how they feel about being the first all-women cycling team in Singapore, Ms Hodges expressed her excitement and pride at having reached this stage.
"I've done some racing in the past but there has never been a women-only team. We are normally add-ons," she said.
She explained that usually there would be 15 men with only seven women in a typical mixed team.
Of her previous experience cycling in a mixed team, she said: "I was on the entry list, but I was the reserve and the men raced. There are currently female racers in mixed teams who have slots, but I can't tell you if any of the men are willing to sacrifice that for a woman."
Her teammate Gaëlle Mogabure, 39, chimed in: "Regardless of your level, you don't have to be the fastest. You can definitely be part of a team and contribute to the community, so hopefully next year it won't be just one (women's only) team in the Speedway Club Championship, but several teams."
They agree that even though winning would be a tremendous achievement, their main goal is to encourage women to pick up cycling - both for leisure and for racing.
They also noted that, in recent years, more women are joining other mixed-teams and improving the female-to-male ratio.
The Fahrenheit Performance Development Team usually trains in the morning, some times as early as 4am.
"You feel like you've achieved something. If you go to work that day and you've already cycled 45km in the morning, you really feel like no matter what happens at the end of the day, you've done something really important," Ms Hodges said.
To encourage more girls to take up the sport, teammate Nicole Rondy, 32, said there should be more women's division cycling in races, as this would encourage more females to participate.
Mr Choo said that he is trying to convince race organisers in Singapore to create more categories for women in order to make races more accessible to those with different skill levels.(Fahrenheit Performance provides cycling analytics and bike fitting services.)
The problem, however, is that unless the demand from women increases, organisers do not have that much of an incentive to do so, he noted.
Meanwhile, another good cause that the team feels strongly about is saving the environment.
As a Biology teacher in Tanglin Trust School, Ms Hodges incorporates recycling habits into her lessons. She lets her students use old bicycle parts or recycled materials to create models for learning things such as the functions of the kidney.
She is glad that this year's OCBC Cycle Speedway Club Championship is expanding on its green efforts. For instance, the traditional acrylic plaques that are given to the winning teams will be replaced by Hydro Flask bottles made with 100 per cent recyclable material.
Ms Hodges' team has tried to reduce waste by bringing their own mugs or making their own energy bars so they do not need to buy pre-packaged ones. They have also cultivated the habit of keeping their trash with them until they find a dustbin.
More information on this year's OCBC Cycle and the various categories can be found at ocbccycle.com