Amy Lawson and Casey Beaudoin did the math. Then they went for a bike ride.
The bicyclists, from Winthrop and Fayette, respectively, looked at the numbers from every bike race held in 2019 within 100 miles of Augusta.
Out of all the race finishers, only 14% were female. Eighty-six percent were male.
“We need to get girls racing,” Lawson said at the time.
She said she isn’t sure why so few women choose to race — “especially in the cycling world.”
She thinks it may be because women don’t want to stand out in a male-heavy sport. Or maybe it’s the thought that they have to win because it’s called a race. Perhaps, it’s the fear of not finishing.
Auburn cyclist Laura Campbell said she has noticed more women on bike trails as the popularity of mountain biking and cyclocross increase. “There is a huge amount of women who mountain bike, but there are too few racers,” she said.
“I think the largest obstacle for women bike racers is getting over the guilt of doing something healthful for themselves,” Campbell said. “Putting themselves and their own goals first, which is really what it takes to train and race, is very tough with young families under the best of circumstances. Training for racing can be time consuming,” said the cyclist who trains daily and still finds time to ride bikes with her son.
“Many women work full time but are also putting just as many hours caring for children and partners,” she said. “If it’s not the whole family’s sport, racing becomes difficult if not impossible. Women need to be more selfish.”
“I feel it’s important for women to show up,” Lawson said.
Twenty-six young girls did show up to Pedal Power Winthrop on Wednesday evening. The first-year program is designed to build the confidence of young girls while they bicycle, coached by Beaudoin and Lawson.
The girls try road riding one week, cyclocross the next and mountain biking after that. They learn about cycling gear, nutrition, community, how to remove their bike chain and how to pump up their tires.
“I learned what gear to put my bike in while riding up a hill,” 10-year-0ld Emmalin Nichols of Farmingdale said.
“It’s fun to go up and down the hills and see all the trees,” Ellie Mannisto, 10, said. “I like going fast.”
“Friends” is why Katie Murphy, 8, likes to come to Pedal Power.
And yes, the girls learn about bike racing.
Lawson told them about her experience competing in the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race in Leadville, Colorado, in 2019.
“I qualified for the race that I didn’t expect to qualify for,” she said of the 100-mile race with 11,000 feet of elevation gain. She trained for more than a year, often at 4 a.m.
Out of 147 women entered, Lawson came in 124th. “My day in Leadville was one of the top five days of my life,” she said. “And I didn’t come close to winning this race.”
“Sometimes a bike race is about winning,” Lawson explained. But most often, it is not.
Lawson said racing is about good vibes — think cheering, happy crowds and more cowbells. Racing is about challenge — push yourself and try new things. Racing is about speed — ride fast, wind in your face and excitement.
And racing is about community. “We are a pedal power community,” Lawson told the girls. “We all have one thing in common. We like to ride our bikes.”
Thirty-year-old Aryn Bolster of Augusta said “community” is a major reason why she participates in triathlons. She did her first triathlon, which includes, swimming, cycling and running, two years ago and now she is hooked. “I have fallen in love,” said Bolster, who comes to Pedal Power to help and to share her passion for cycling.
“The Tri for a Cure changed my drive for triathlons because of the women involved,” Bolster said. The annual all-woman triathlon raises money for the Maine Cancer Foundation. “Being around thousands of other women, there is something about that that captivates you,” she said.
Lawson said one of the driving factors that made Pedal Power Winthrop a reality was during spin class she took at a local bike shop. The shop owner threw in a video of a bike race for added motivation.
“It was a women’s race,” Lawson said with a big smile. “That was enough to motivate me to get girls racing. And, that’s the only bike shop I will shop at now.”
Up next for the 26 girls of Pedal Power is their first bike race, a one-mile “gravel grind” on July 8. One lucky girl will pick a paper from a bike helmet to determine whether they’ll ride clockwise or counterclockwise around the looped Roger Guerette Community Trail at Winthrop High School.
As Lawson said, some girls may feel insecure about their first race, some may worry about not finishing and a few may feel that they must win to have fun.
But, one thing will be for certain. Out of everyone who finishes, 100% will be girls.