01 October 2020

Event Review: Cycletta South

September 26, 2011

In keeping with the growing trend for all-women sports events, cycling is beginning to get on board. For the first time this year there have been a few all-women cyclosportives.

Cycletta 2One of the most anticipated events of the year was the Cycletta series of bike rides. These two bike rides taking place at opposite ends of the country aim to increase women’s participation in cyclesport. Feeling like I wanted to be part of this new trend, I went to Whipsnade Zoo to take part in Cycletta South.

On my arrival at the zoo I could see immediately that the place was awash with the female of the species. But apart from the odd cheeky wallaby leaping around, these females were of the human variety, dressed in brightly coloured kit of all hues and wheeling bicycles of all types.

It is not often that you see so many women on bikes in one place. In fact there were 800 to be precise, and this included a certain Olympic Track Cycling Champion by the name of Victoria Pendleton. As well as being the ambassador for the Cycletta rides she is also a local girl since she is originally from the surrounding Bedfordshire area. Victoria was looking forward to riding on lanes which felt like home.

I was also looking forward to getting going as it was a little chilly after the stormy night we had had and I wanted to keep warm!

The Course

As this event was organised to specifically encourage new riders, various facilities were put in place to assist beginners. There was a pre-event warm-up, rather like aerobics but in cycling gear! This was immediately followed by a safety briefing and tips on cycling. Then we were all ushered to the start line where Victoria Pendleton pulled the start-gun and we were off.

Once out of the grounds of the zoo we plunged down a lovely fast descent, known locally as Bison Hill. Having this section of the route on closed roads was great because it gave people the opportunity to descend at their own pace and take a wide line if they wanted. Even at this early stage the variety of cycling abilities was quite apparent.

landscapeMany women were on hybrids doing their first ever cycling event, after having been dragged along by friends. Other more experienced women on road racing bikes were keen to see how fast they could complete the course. Whatever the ability all women had access to mechanical support along the way if need be, received lots of encouragement from marshals and spectators, and were treated to two plentiful feed stations on the 40km route.

Once at the bottom of the hill the route took us along flat to gently undulating lanes through Bedfordshire. Although many would not have had any apprehensions over completing the ride, there were a few anxious noises being made about the beast which we would have to conquer right at the end of the route. Yes, we would have to tackle Bison Hill with its 20% ramps! This would not be an easy challenge – still less, given that we also had a couple of other hills to ride along the way, as well as a strong head wind.

Nevertheless, the ride was enjoyable as there was a lot of camaraderie among the women as we rode along in various small groups and people gave each other encouragement on the hills. Furthermore, the feed stations provided a very pleasant break. It was not just because we had a wide choice of energy drinks, savoury snacks and cakes, but also because Victoria Pendleton was there to chat to the riders, pose for photos and sign her autograph. She was definitely a hit with the riders.

Back on the road and I rode back with another lady of a similar ability to me, and we worked together, taking it turn to slipstream off each other in the wind. This helped to save a bit of energy for the sting in the tail at the end of the ride. But had I saved enough energy? This hill was definitely a toughie, whichever way you looked at it.


The 1.25km climb seemed to drag on forever, and each time I tackled a short sharp ramp I rounded the bend only to see more climbing to be done! It was just a case of gritting my teeth and pressing on until I felt the resistance decrease. The organisers had divided up the hill into levels from one to six, with six being the toughest part of the climb near the top. This at least gave riders a sense of having achieved a particular level when they eventually had to walk. The reality was that around 75% of the field had to walk up this hill – which is coincidentally the proportion of first timers on this ride taking part in a cyclosportive.

Once over the hill people heaved a big sigh of relief as the end of the ride was also in sight and the crowds were there to cheer us on as we crossed the finish line.

VP Cycletta 2

Back at the event village there was a nice relaxed atmosphere, where women could socialise over refreshments. As it was a women’s event there was also a bit of pampering on offer too! You could have a post-ride massage, and you could also take part in yoga sessions, have a manicure, and even have your hair styled. We may have worked hard, but the organisers still wanted to make us feel like a million dollars at the end of our ride!

In the village comments from the participants were very positive and there were lots of smiley faces. Women really appreciated the camaraderie during the ride, and although some felt that the route had been tough they still had a brilliant day out. Events like this are good for encouraging new riders and many said that this had inspired them to take part in more cycling events.

Would I do it Again?

Yes, I would certainly ride this again. All-women cycle events are still rare occurrences, and Cycletta in particular, did a great job for providing more than just a bike ride – it was a very friendly and sociable experience.

Good Points

Friendly atmosphere during the ride and in the event village

A route providing something for all abilities

Plentiful feed stations

Mechanical support for all issues, including punctures

Free massage plus “pampering” facilities

A very friendly and amenable ambassador in the shape of Victoria Pendleton

Secure bike park

Bad Points

No where to leave bags for those arriving by public transport

Rain had been forecast so we were lucky to escape with only light showers. If there had been more rain the village would not have been as pleasant since it was set in a grassy field

Do You Want to do It?

There will be a Cycletta North event at Tatton Park on October 2nd 2011.

Further details on www.cycletta.co.uk

Maria David, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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