Two amateur cyclists are preparing to ride almost 1000 miles from London to France to raise awareness of the barriers preventing women in midlife from cycling as part of Women in Sport’s ongoing campaigning for gender parity in sport and exercise. 44-year-old Clare Taylor and Sharon Spriggs, 50, are joining a team of recreational cyclists for the challenge, which sees them depart from Wimbledon, London on June 2nd and headed for Rochefort Su Mer, France. The route will see the riders average 100 miles a day for 10 days, finishing back in London on June 11th, totalling 955 miles.
The duo are taking on the challenge to inspire women at midlife to overcome the fear of cycling and experience the joy and freedom it can bring. A recent Twitter poll by Women in Sport found the main barriers preventing women from getting in the saddle are safety (71%), time pressure (11%), not having the right gear (11%) and affordability (7%).
Clare, who works as an insight officer for the charity said: “Finding time to train for this challenge has been difficult and I’ve had to battle with the guilt of being away from my family for ten days, during which it’s also my son’s birthday. But it’s so easy for women in midlife to put their needs on the backburner as we juggle childcare, work commitments and responsibility for aging parents. I knew I had to prove to myself and to other women of the same age that it’s possible to push outside of your comfort zone, however big or small the challenge.”
Figures show 47 percent of women at midlife have less than 35 minutes to themselves each day*, yet 84 per cent of inactive women in that age bracket (41-60 years old) want to be more active.** Regular exercise can also help to prevent or manage some of the symptoms of menopause and can have life-changing benefits in relation to happiness, mental wellbeing and physical health.
Sharon explained why she wanted to take on the ride: “I like to do something every year that pushes me mentally and physically and I know I must confront some of my fears on this challenge; cycling on the other side of the road, fear of failure – of not being able to complete the distance, are the most prominent. Being active has also helped me to manage my menopausal symptoms and I hope to inspire other women to find their own release.”
The two women are being supported to participate in the challenge by funding from The Gill Foundation. Martin Gill said: “We care deeply about ensuring that women and girls have a place in sport, no matter their age or ability level. This challenge will push their limits; to overcome fear, the guilt of being away from home and away from responsibility and test their endurance and physical capability. In doing so it will show others how important it is to discover a new joy, a sense of freedom, self-discovery and friendship and smash the stereotypes that stop other women and girls from taking part.”
Claire and Sharon are using the Gill Cycle Challenge to fundraise for Women in Sport. Stephanie Hilborne OBE, CEO of Women in Sport said: “Cycling is an activity that’s easily accessible to most yet we know that 30 per cent of women who currently do not ride a bike would like to.*** It’s simply not good enough that so many women feel that this is an insurmountable challenge. We must work together to break the barriers preventing women and girls of all ages from experiencing the joy, exhilaration and health benefits that cycling can bring.
I am delighted and so grateful for the support from The Gill Foundation and their help to challenge the gender stereotypes and to continue to strive for change. We must inspire women and girls to discover a sense of adventure, build self-esteem and for women in midlife especially to find time to rediscover themselves.”
Support Claire and Sharon here.