Neutral Service is a big supporter of the Women’s Eastern Racing League and a huge fan of Tanya Griffiths, who created the League in 2014 to form a focus for women’s cycle racing in the Eastern Region. The aim of the league is to encourage more people to organise races for women, to encourage more women and girls to race, and encourage more people to support their local races. We recently spoke with Tanya to find out how the organisation fared in its second year.
NS: I’ve been to several of the events that formed part of the League this year and it’s been great to see so many riders who are part of the organisation out on the roads – loads more than last year! How has WERL grown?
TG: This year we added a time trial league to our road league to provide a new element of competition and we can see this as a real growth area in the development of women’s racing in the region. Another high for the league was securing sponsorship from two great title sponsors, which meant that we had help with our end-of-season prizes, promotion and some great give-aways during the season. We went for small local businesses, who would benefit from promotion with the League and who could feel involved in what we do so that they really get something out of the League’s achievements.
I also went along to see the two race training events you organised at the Redbridge Cycling Centre, which were well-attended by riders either seeking to learn the basics or improve on their existing skills. They were great, as would be expected when British Cycling coach Huw Williams, Ellie Cadzow, Isla Rush, Nikki Juniper, Corrine Hall and, of course, yourself.
We released nearly 60 women into the racing world with new skills learnt on the two race training sessions. Some women have taken up the sport, others are using their new-found skills in their general riding out there on the road. We’ve had great highs: The number of league members has swelled greatly from the 19 we had last year to just over 50 this year, the number of events has increased and the number of riders entering events increased too (we had no events cancelled due to low numbers this year!)
The last couple of years have been tough for businesses, and the sport has suffered as a result. I understand there have been some issues with sponsorship?
Unfortunately, sponsorship can come with risks. Our Time Trial League sponsor was not only small and local, but a newly set-up business. They took a risk by investing in our League and we in turn took a risk by accepting sponsorship from them. This unfortunately hasn’t paid off… the company has had to close the doors and is therefore unable to honour the fantastic prizes promised to the League. As soon as we were made aware of this, we started the process of trying to replace the prizes. We’ve got a responsibility to our members to deliver on what was promised and I won’t let them down without trying everything within my power first.
What have you managed to arrange to solve the problems?
It’s heart-breaking for it to come to this, after all the hard work, time and effort it has taken to build-up the league from nothing, but thankfully there are some amazing people out there. Starley Bikes will now be providing our TT League road bike category top prize – a Starley Bikes custom TT bike. We are eternally grateful to Starley for stepping in with this generous prize, having ridden their road bikes for two years [Tanya rides for Velosure-Starley Primal], I can personally vouch that a Starley bike is a fantastic prize and something we couldn’t have dreamed would be possible for the League.
We’ve also had prizes donated by Salice UK, Tri La-Tania, Mark Fairhurst, STE Illustrates, PMR@Toachim House, Aero Cycles and many more. And of course our fantastic Road League sponsor PerformanceCoaching.Me who is providing all of our road league prizes, has been there with us all through the year and provided our leaders jerseys. Thank you everyone! These people have really helped to save the league.
Wow – that’s impressive! I’ve never owned a Starley bike, but I always drool over them at races – sorry if you keep having to clean the top tube. So is it all sorted out now?
Not quite – I’m now all out of contacts and hard though it is to admit defeat, we will be falling short on our TT league time trial bike category prize. We had been promised a carbon disc wheel and tri spoke wheel by our TT League sponsor, but they’re no longer able to provide these and WERL simply doesn’t have the funds to be able to buy a set of wheels. We are also short on our 3rd place prizes for both our TT Leagues.
I’ve known you for a couple of years and I know you’re not the kind of person who is satisfied unless you’ve given 100% – in fact, you wrote a blog post recently saying “I have this in-built drive to ensure I’m doing everything I can to do the best job I can at everything I do. If I can’t do a good job, it doesn’t happen.” So I suspect you’re not going to just leave things like this?
This is where our new crowdfunding page comes in. There have been so many helpful and generous people out there that I thought I’d give it a try and see if there is anyone else who would want to help.
If anyone can, please donate to our prize fund so that we can honour our promises to our league members. We greatly appreciate anything you can spare I just don’t want to let these riders down.
Organisations such as the Women’s Eastern Racing League are of phenomenal importance in British women’s cycling, providing riders with a chance to gain the knowledge and skills they need in order to be able to reach a point where they can start racing – and, just as importantly, not be discouraged the first time they experience what it’s like to ride in a peloton.
Few clubs can provide this, due to not having enough female members to organise chain gangs that give some idea of what a race is like, while commercial teams can only organise training for their members. Let’s also not forget the social aspect: WERL’s prize-giving ceremony following the Essex Roads Club’s race earlier this year was great fun, and their end-of-season party after the Sudbury CC Hill Climb next month looks all set to be great – these are also important in getting more women racing, which benefits the sport.
On the 30th of September, the prize fund had been running for two days and had reached £50 towards its aim of £1600 with 17 days to go. £1550 is a lot of money, but if nine people donated £10 each day the target would be exceeded. We can’t all afford a tenner, of course – the minimum donation is just £1, and whatever you give will help Tanya and the League to continue doing their great work.