The road to the Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits is different for many, from professionals looking to tune-up ahead of the nationals to up-and-coming riders looking to make a name for themselves. In the women’s support race, there are many athletes excited for the opportunity to race against quality riders in the pumping atmosphere of the Geelong-based race.
The women’s support race was introduced in 2020, run in addition to elite women’s race for the riders who aren’t quite at the pro level, but looking to challenge themselves against quality opposition as part of one of the most prestigious events on the summer calendar of cycling.
The 2020 event attracted some superb athletes, a lot crossing over from other sports and relishing the opportunity for competition. Rae Lesniowska, won a stage in 2020, and spoke of the experience of winning and competing at the ‘fastest crit series in the world’ a title bestowed by Robbie McEwen.
“I was literally speechless when l unexpectedly won the first stage in 2020 and was subsequently congratulated and presented with flowers and the yellow jersey on stage by cycling greats Matt Keenan, John Trevorrow and my absolute idol, Phil Liggett,” said Lesniowska. “The photo of me next to Phil is my all-time favourite photo from my cycling 'career'.
Lesniowska has a storied career, stretching over a decade in triathlon, competing in the Hawaii Ironman, completing marathons and ultra-endurance cycling challenges like cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats – the length of Britain. Lesniowska highlighted the importance of the increasing the inclusivity of the event to give women the chance to show their best in one of the high prestige events on the summer calendar of cycling.
“For me, the highlight of this race was the opportunity to feel included in the absolute buzz and excitement of a professional race,” said Lesniowska. “To be included in the professional commentary, media coverage and awards ceremonies felt like a privilege to me and provided a level of acknowledgment rarely afforded to me as a competitive club level racer for nearly 38 years.
“At least 90% of my cycling training and racing has been predominantly with men, due to the traditionally male dominated culture of the sport and low numbers of female cyclists and racers. Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year of turning up and giving my all, and never really feeling like part of the gang. Countless races of clocking PBs and missing the overall podium in men's B and C grade races by as little as a tyre width with not even a mention l was there.”
Peta Antonello, a fellow competitor in the 2020 Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits, echoed those sentiments and spoke of bringing cycling to future generations, with the benefit of encouraging herself to tackle further challenges.
“My first experience with the Bay Crits was in 2020 after there was a call out on She Race (a women’s cycling group on Facebook), for more competitors to ensure the race was run,” said Antonello. “I knew I had no hope of being competitive in the race but I entered because I wanted to challenge myself and also ensure the category was run for future years. I am passionate about opportunity and paving the way for future female generations in the sport, however small my contribution may be.”
“Since having this opportunity it has encouraged me to enter further events and races, such as the Port Campbell to Warrnambool Handicap, Ballarat ITT & road race Grand Fondo’s and weekly local club races.”
From a spectator to on the course, Emma Jackson went from watching the top athletes going around to participating in the event herself in 2020.
“The Bay Crits have always been the number one criterium event to attend as a spectator,” said Jackson. “My family and I have been attending for years.
“I got my first photos as a child with Robbie McEwen and Stuart O’Grady at the Bay Crits. For myself, I’m a mum and keen cyclist. I love racing but I am definitely not an Elite athlete.
“To have the opportunity to still be a part of the Bay Crits is amazing. I sincerely hope the 2022 event is a success. We really need events like this supporting women’s racing.”
Enter here via this Entryboss link before entries close on Wednesday. There’s still time to be part of what is shaping up on a great 2022 Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits!