The Gapers Block Criterium Series encourages women to try bike racing


Competitors in last year’s series race at Calumet Park. Photo by Amy Dykema.

As I’ve written before, racing is the aspect of bike culture that I know the least about, but I’m always up for leaning more. So when I heard that Half Acre Cycling (sponsored by one of my favorite local brews) and Gapers Block (one of my favorite local websites) are putting on the 2012 Gapers Block Criterium Series at Calumet Park, my ears pricked up. I was also interested to hear that this series of “crit” races (laps around a short course) is geared towards novices, especially women.

The series takes place Monday, March 26, through Thursday, March 29, starting at 6 pm each evening, with 30-minute men’s and women’s competitions. Calumet Park, a lovely lakeside green space at 9501 S. Ewing, is 12 miles south of the Loop, and the organizers are encouraging racers to pedal to the event – pretty cool, since most bike races tend to be roof-rack affairs. If you sign up in advance, you can compete on all four nights for only $50 for men, or a mere $25 for women.

To further entice the ladies to participate, there’s a special prize for the top Category 4 (beginner) female racer, a prize drawing for women who show up for all four nights, and a special post-race discussion for women on the first two nights. At these Q & A sessions, new racers can get advice and encouragement from seasoned female competitors. I called up Half Acre Cycling’s Vanessa Buccella yesterday to find out more about the female-friendly aspects of the series, and I also learned about Vanessa’s own path from commuter to messenger to racer.

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