The amazing women of Canberra…
The term “girl squad” has become very popular over mainstream social media recently, and has become one of my favourites because I belong to one of my own. It may seem like a brag or a little superficial, but when you are part of a real “girl squad” it is something very cool.
I want to tell you all about the awesome girl squad in my hometown of Canberra.
Australia’s capital city cops a fair amount of bagging from our more cosmopolitan neighbours because of our uptight political/public service reputation and also our freezing cold winters, but the Bush Capital has been slowly climbing up the rankings as one of the most interesting and liveable cities in the world. We have developed a top class food and coffee culture to match our already impressive sporting reputation.
It’s not just the AIS that makes Canberra such a strong sports hub, but the many small community groups and clubs. Canberra Cycling Club and the Vikings Cycling Club are two of those that have held their own for many years now in Australian cycling despite our smaller population size. This can be attributed to the geography so conducive to cycling, and the race quality and availability throughout the year. Another major factor is the friendliness and inclusiveness of the majority of cyclists here.
When I first started racing in my teens, the women had to race in the men’s grades as there were not enough to warrant their own. Over the last 10 years, the club has been able to foster an environment where female participation has flourished and now there are three women’s grades at nearly every race. We have had some great champions of the sport including coaches and fellow riders make sure that women were welcomed, looked after and have fun while cycling.
I didn’t have many close girlfriends growing up, but as soon as I became more involved in cycling I made some lifelong female friends. I enjoy doing a broad range of things from dressing up and going out, to going on outdoor adventures and using your body to it’s maximum, and it’s hard to find women who are the same. The female cyclists in Canberra fit the bill and more.
We have a Facebook chat group of nearly 40 ladies who post daily what training they are up to, what coffee shop they will be at, any social get-togethers or parties they are planning, and plenty of silly banter. These women hang out off the bike more than they do on it. The range of age and professions is very broad and each girl brings something different to the table. Some just like the coffee rides while others are NRS or professional racers. If there is a new rider in town she will be added straight away and welcomed at the bunch ride or coffee shop like she was always part of the group.
Over the years we have developed fun traditions such as a regular Friday morning coffee meet up, the Canberra Cycling Club Christmas Ball, and our own special girls-only Christmas party we affectionately call “Bitches Christmas”. These parties often have involved dress up themes from thrift shop to formal masquerade. One year a few of us started our own local criterium team called “Ladies Who Lunch” for a laugh and even had our own kit made up. The following season we had requests from more than 20 women wanting to be part of the team!
When I am in Europe racing for most of the year I miss this group of women nearly as much as I miss my husband and family. I have shared so many great moments with them and can talk to them about anything, and most of all they make me laugh until I cry. They are my biggest fans and some of my best motivators. I am very lucky to call them my girl squad, and you can too if you ever come to Canberra.
On a side note, the guys are just as welcoming and friendly in Canberra and I could go on about how great the cycling community is here all day!
Words & Images: Gracie Elvin @gracieelvin