Photo by Eric Goodwin of Burnham Racing
Prior to the start of the Chicago Women’s Elite Cycling team’s season at the Glencoe Grand Prix on May 30, the group has its focus on education. With multiple development clinics scheduled between now and May 30, the team hopes to ease fears new cyclists may have about competing and remind experienced cyclists of the sport’s fundamentals.
“What we are trying to do with these clinics is provide a little education to build some confidence and develop skills so the newer group of riders coming out can go a little more confidently into these bike races, understand what will happen, what they can expect and how to manage themselves in a race to do well,” Francine Haas, head of development for CWEC, says.
To date, CWEC has hosted two clinics. In March, the team’s indoor clinic focused on key concepts, which includes vision, position, anticipation, conservation and efficiency on the bike, and in April, CWEC hosted a bike skills clinic in conjunction with the Spring Super Criterium in South Beloit. Though each clinic stands on its own, the schedule design allows for riders to build on lessons taught at previous events.
“Key concepts are things that someone, whether you’re heading out to ride by yourself or in a race, should always be thinking of,” Haas says. “We started with vision because everything rolls down from vision: what you look at, road hazards, opportunities to take an advantage.”
The bike handling and skills clinic last weekend focused on techniques such as balancing on your bike while stopped, how to get food from your pocket while riding and how to handle contact from other riders while on your bike.
“We did bumping drills where we leaned on each other, because sometimes that happens in a race,” Haas says. “If you know what that feels like you might not overreact, and if you’re comfortable nothing will happen. If you know how to handle yourself in a situation, your chances of coming out of it are much better.”
On April 25, CWEC will host an hour-long track cycling clinic at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook. This clinic, designed specifically for women, will touch on topics unique to track cycling, including riding a fixed gear bike, different kinds of track racing and understanding markings on a track.
“Each time you race on a Thursday night [at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome] you have three opportunities to try three races, and each may have a different strategy,” Haas says. “This is another opportunity to get out there and try to make it happen.”
Other clinics, which welcome both men and women cyclists of all ability levels, include three clinics from May 15 through May 17 held along with the PSIMET Fox River Omnium in Dundee, Elgin and Fox River Grove that will include a meet and greet, expansion upon the vision concept introduced in March and a race skills clinic designed specifically to help riders that will compete in Sunday’s race. The clinic series will conclude with a racing tactics and skills clinic on May 29. The Pepper Palace team, an Ashville, North Carolina-based professional team, will assist with that clinic.
“We’ll talk about race strategy, go out on the course and go through some of the hot spots,” Haas says. “The first corner in that race is make or break, so we’ll practice that corner. There’s another corner where you descend down into a tight turn and right after that there’s a hill, so you have to be able to manage that downhill, corner and prepare for the uphill.”
The Glencoe Grand Prix will also serve as CWEC’s debut race as a team, though women on the team have been competing locally with their respective teams over the past few weeks.
“[The Lincoln Park Criterium] was the first local crit of the season, and it became obvious that it was a dynamic race to watch,” Cathy Frampton, CWEC co-founder and president, says. “You had almost all of the core team from CWEC in the race. When it whittled down to the top group, all the girls from the CWEC group were in that top group and competing against each other. The energy of being able to compete against each other keeps racing in Chicago interesting and growing.”