Which is both good and bad – good in that there are clearly a lot more women interested in long distance than I thought; bad in that not all of them will be able to join us.
They’re more likely to be women who don’t have a home to go back to, who are on the run from something, whose disappearance will cause far fewer ripples, and indeed, might not even be noticed until someone stumbles across the body in the bushes. The jersey I’ll be wearing for two whole weeks is lying on a chair in my bedroom, as yet fragrant and unstained.
Maybe it’s that tired old ‘safety’ chestnut again – the fact that women are asked so often whether it isn’t dangerous for them to travel without male protection that they begin to believe it, and become too cautious and timid to travel anywhere that seems overtly ‘different’ from what they’re already used to.
Maybe this is why more women enter the Trans Am Bike Race – because the course is always the same, so you can build up a good advance knowledge of the route by reading other people’s blog posts and ride reports, because America has a single, widely-spoken language, and because a thousand road trip movies have rendered the landscape of gas stations, motels and roadside diners familiar, and therefore apparently safe.* But there are loads more factors on top of this.
Which sort of means I won, unless you count the men and women together (which I prefer to), in which case I came in somewhere around 40th. Partly because it seems unnecessarily smug to devote a whole blog post to my winning a race (and I don’t have time to write the long rambling race report that would reveal winning to be merely the cherry on a very large and delicious cake), and partly because – well, a lazy cycle-tourer like me shouldn’t be winning the Transcontinental .
I’m under no illusions that if riders like Juliana, or Sarah Hammond, or Lael Wilcox entered they’d wipe the floor with me – and probably most of the men as well.