It has been about a year now that I have been working for the Andalucian Cycling Experience. In one of the first chats that we had last year, Ashley told me that he was looking for a female guide to add to the team. Obviously I was happy to hear this, but to tell you the truth, I did not really understand what difference I was going to make, just by being a woman.
Over the past year I have started to realize exactly this, that it does not make a difference whether you are guided by one of my colleagues or by me. There have been women admitting that they had been relieved when they found out that I was going to be their guide for the week – as if they were saying; “We women together, that is going to be fun”. Other women were worried when they realized that they were going to go out riding with a group of men all week, uncertain whether they would be able to keep up with the guys. Some men seemed to be slightly disappointed when Ashley presented me as their guide for the week, as if they were thinking; “Is a lady going to lead us over technical single tracks, challenging mountains, or through fast descends and miles and miles of rolling roads?” And other men just treated me as ”one of the guys”, chatting with me from the first metres to the last – if there was still energy to chat by then – about bikes, books, routes, race tactics, jobs ,journeys, and so many other things.
In the end, it was indeed a lot of fun to go out riding with other women, but the women that had been out riding with the men also returned to Montecorto with a satisfied smile on their faces. Sometimes ”those lovely ladies” had even been the ones making the whole group suffer under their pace. When I pick people up from the airport, there are a lot of men too, telling me that they look forward to their holidays with us, but that they were worried if they will be able to keep up with the group. So, it is not just women who worry about that. The men that seemed sceptical about a woman leading their ride, did not complain about this afterwards, and to those that treated me like no other, well, I would like to say thank you for all the nice metres and memories that we shared on the road. There have been cyclists that made me dig deep in my energy reserves, challenging me to my limits, both men and women, I have seen male and female riders doing ”crazy stuff” on the MTB, road riders flying down descends, or flying up the climbs, and I have had the pleasure to share a lot of wonderful days on the bike with wonderful people.
My point is; it does not matter whether you are a woman or a man, we all worry about whether we are going to be good enough to keep up with the group, whether we will be able to fix our bike when we have a mechanical, whether we would not get lost or left behind, whether we will descend/climb as fast as the others, whether we would look chubby in our lycra, etc, etc… It sometimes seems as if women are worrying more about those things and especially when they know that they will be surrounded by men, as if the men will be better on all terrains. Some women also asked if we do women-only weeks; we are thinking about that. But whether we women really worry more, or whether the men are just better in hiding their worries, fact is that during this year I have seen that the women, novice or experienced, are perfectly capable of riding together with men, that we can learn something from cycling with them, but that they – when they drop their sceptisism – can learn something from us too.
As we all know, holidays are the moment to leave all the stress and worries behind and to enjoy the moment. That is why there are guides to keep the group together, to make sure that everybody knows where to go and that nobody is left behind, to fix a bike when it is broken, or to call the van out if necessary, to give you tips and tricks to descend or climb better/faster, to remind you to keep eating and drinking, to lead you to the best bars and restaurants, for coffee or lunch, and even dinner. About that lycra… we are all together in that one, we are all working on the bike to get those extra pounds off and if you are really really worried about it… nowadays there is cycling clothing with a ”loose fit” too!!
Please, ladies – and gentlemen – even if you can not come with your partner, or group of friends, or just someone that is going to be slower than you, there is no reason not to come. We will take good care of you. So stop doubting, start doing!
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