Velociposse - London's First Women's Only Track Team

Velociposse - London's First Women's Only Track Team

We love how the cycling scene is ever changing and evolving in London and when we first heard the news of Velociposse starting, we were super excited. It's great to see more and more females riding. We've loved watching their progress so far and can't wait to see what else is to come from these girls. We wanted to know more about them so here it is, some words from team captain Jess as well as some of the other ladies.

Jess
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Jess, team captain, founder and official “hold my beer while I try that” idiot of Velociposse. I also write a cycling blog called Spoke & Words, and I like talking about Women’s cycling from the perspective of someone trying hard to make a positive impact, but who is also a kind of middle-of-the-road cyclist. I’m a huge newbie, and I only ‘officially’ started cycling (more than to and from the pub) about a year ago.

How did the team Velociposse come about?
It was a mix of a bunch of things. A really big trigger was a track omnium I raced in a few months back where the women’s field only just managed to have enough to have our own races (we needed 9, we had 9). I wouldn’t have felt comfortable riding with the men (although the women’s field was so much stronger than me and kicked my butt anyway) so it was clear to me then that I wanted to help boost women’s entry numbers.

I also realised that I was getting fitter and better at racing, but I wasn’t feeling the team spirit or developing the tactics I wanted to. I didn’t really know if I wanted to join a traditional ‘club’, and a lot of women’s teams were for more advanced riders, or were exclusive in selection. I didn’t really want much pressure, I just wanted to get better in a team, and feel the support of other women in the same boat.

While I was still processing what I could do about group-training/riding/community a friend of mine, Lucy, sent me a video about Koochella (our all-women now-‘sister team’ in the States). That video was a lighbulb moment for me and I decided to reach out to Anna Schwinn (Koochella founder/captain) on a whim. Anna responded the same day and basically said “GIRL, START THE TEAM!!!” so I decided to put everything I had into solving the problem of small fields, team training, and developing a community of like-minded women.

Once I started getting it together I saw so much DIY spirit in all of these women I met and who were interested in fixed and track events, and even CX and road crits. There was this underlying feeling of community when we all got together; it just needed to be expanded on.

Now, less than 4 months later, we have this team of women who come from crazy different backgrounds, and we all have skills we can teach each other. Luckily we also love to hang out, and we have this insanely active community on facebook and chat where we talk all day every day. It’s made bike riding and racing about 200% more fun.

When and where does the team train?
We train whenever and wherever we can, and I like to let the girls sort stuff out whenever they want to do something – but we also have two ‘official’ sessions every week, one South and one East. Girls are expected to attend at least one team session each week.

What are Velociposse's goals for 2016?
- A minimum of 9 members of the team at every track race we enter
- Competing in both Herne Hill Velodrome and Lee Valley Velodrome track season
- I would like to have our whole team race in Red Hook Crit London when it comes back
- In the pipe (I cannot say much) we are looking at hosting a women’s only track omnium - I’m thinking music, beers, and a lot of fun
- I would love to see other women who are doing something similar, or hear from some who are inspired by Velociposse to get involved at any level (the ultimate goal!!)

Who and what inspires you?
- Anna Schwinn absolutely number one. She is basically my bike mentor.
- The girls in the team inspire me every day, they’re hilarious and talented and fun. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better group of chix.
- Overall the team was inspired by: DIY punk, riot grrl, roller disco, bike polo, Spice Girls, girl scouts and brownies, LA Sweat, Koochella, SWAT. Basically anything where other ladies are kicking ass.

What are your top training tips?
Keep going. I have fallen off, crashed, been dropped, cried, hurt myself, you name it. The reason why I am still getting better is because I kept going. And, honestly, no one gives a shit when you fail – as Jake from Adventure Time says, “dude, sucking at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”

You recently raced the first Red Hook Crit London, how did you find it?
The best day of our lives, I think (sunburn aside). None of us had ever raced in a track crit before, and the majority of the team entered had never raced before (CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?!). I was absolutely beaming when I finished because, even though my results were kind of ‘meh’, in the grand scheme of things I was just so proud of all of us for doing it.

What changes do we need to see within cycling in order to gain equality for women?
This is such a hard question, and I don’t think there is any one correct answer.
I am a big advocate of the DIY ethos and I think that the best way to get things done is to do them yourselves; make a lot of noise and show people how important women’s cycling is. That’s my plan, anyway.

Every time someone starts a new cycling equality project, writes a blog post, organises a women’s race, or just talks to another person about the importance of women’s cycling, they are making a positive impact. There are a lot of quiet achievers (male and female) who are organising grassroots training, doing all they can to improve prize money, pushing for removal of podium girls, making great women’s kit and equipment, and just generally advocating for more equality. Those peeps are going to make, little by little, a lot of change in the long run.

Emma
Who and what inspires you?
I’m inspired by watching top cyclists race – I watched the women’s Westminster Grand Prix last weekend and was inspired by the constant attacks and the way the women rode with their teams. I just get excited watching racing, it doesn’t have to be just women but obviously the women's races resonate more with me. I can’t name just one rider though; Marianne Vos, Lizzie Armistead, and Geraint Thomas are a few.

What are your top training tips?
Rest! I hate to rest but its’ so valuable in your development and strength.

You recently raced the first Red Hook Crit London, how did you find it?
Oh my god it was so much fun! My qualifying time wasn’t as good as it could have been which put me further back in the starting grid, but I pulled myself up a bit. I was worried about cornering on my track bike but almost instantly forgot and was cutting them as tight as I could!

What changes do we need to see within cycling in order to gain equality for women?
I think women are being given opportunities now that they weren’t even last year, but we’ve got a long way to go. On a local level organisers are putting on races for women at all levels and at a national and global level, female cyclists have worked so hard to be treated equally and its starting to come to fruition with events like the Tour of Britain and La Course. Financial recognition and equality its what is left wanting now it seems – the prizes are smaller for women, and the pay is lower. That sort of discrimination isn’t acceptable in any other workplace so it has no place in professional sports.

Lina
Who and what inspires you?
In terms of riding and training I've always loved a challenge and fixed gear was one of them. To me it just sounded like a badass way of riding bikes on the road and I had to give it a go. I'm also inspired by people who do extraordinary adventures all over the world, and our fixed gear community in London. 

What are your top training tips?
Be passionate, consistent and have a goal in your mind. You'll get there gradually. What actually helped me loads, was training with my boys from East London Fixed as you always have to chase them! Riding with people faster than you is a bonus as you tend to push harder and if you're competitive at all, that will give you enough motivation to catch up with people and show them what you can do. In terms of nutrition, whole foods plant based diet is the key to having loads of energy and recovering quickly. I swear by bananas, coconut water and other good carbs!

You recently raced the first Red Hook Crit London, how did you find it?
It was an amazing experience, especially for my first race. Hearing your name being shouted on every corner of the course was so encouraging and seeing all your friends there cheering is the best feeling ever. The race taught me a lot and it was a test run for what will happen in Barcelona next month. I know I have a lot of work to do still, but I have all the cool women to train with now, so it will be even better this time round. Cannot wait for it! 

What changes do we need to see within cycling in order to gain equality for women?
I just think we need to start showing up to every race we can in good numbers and slowly we will get noticed. Organisers definitely need more women entering these events and surely that will make a difference. If there is a demand, people will put more races up for women. We just need to come together and show that we are just as strong and competitive as men.

Also, we need to encourage more women and girls to get into this sport and show them how awesome racing can be. I think with something like Velociposse we will have a great avenue to do that and inspire women to not only take up cycling as sport, but also race and kick some ass! 

Lucy
Who and what inspires you?
Pizza: there are a million pizzas with a million toppings and no pizza ever compares itself to other pizzas. It is always just happy to be a great pizza. (Other things include innovation, kindness, large cats, Jess's enthusiasm for everything good in this world, seeing social media cover and uncover female cyclists doing rad stuff.)

What are your top training tips?
Fausto Coppi's "ride your bike, ride your bike, RIDE YOUR BIKE!". And pizza. Bikes are machines for freedom, never let training get you down. It's okay to rest. DO YOUR BEST AND HAVE FUN.

What changes do we need to see within cycling in order to gain equality for women?
Paradigm shift towards women in general so everyone is equal in this world. Removal of the barriers that stop women getting into it and feeling comfortable - lack of time because they are doing a lot of the emotional labour in this society, and being paid less than men literally across the board, lack of resources (let's face it, women's saddles can still be a total mystery for some, and how many times have I heard "I need a 48cm frame, where can I find one"?!), lack of knowledge plus the prevalent macho attitude stopping women thinking they even have a chance - "I'm really slow though...". More support for women's cycling - people get sarky when they see women's teams getting specialist support or funding - hello?! We're having to claw back some turf from the massive inequality that already exists. We're doing a positive thing for half the population (regardless of whether or not you like pink.) U just jelly cos I get rad socks?! 

Other changes - http://www.lfgss.com/conversations/266259/ less verbal harassment. As in, NO VERBAL HARASSMENT. I know it's hard for companies and retailers and organisers if they say "we organise things for women but none/not enough come :(" - I feel you, but keep trying. We're here, and we're brewing up a bike storm. Bikes are fucking great and everyone should feel comfortable to ride a bike without their gender coming into it (apart from technical specifications).

Revolution Series - Derby

Revolution Series - Derby

Red Hook Crit London: 1

Red Hook Crit London: 1