Women's Forum - How it Went

Women's Forum - How it Went

On Sunday September 17th the Women’s Commission of Cycling Ireland held an open forum before their AGM. The aim of the forum was to devise a way of progressing and developing the sport of women’s bike racing in Ireland. While the number of women racing has increased over the past number of years, the percentage of women choosing to compete in races has fallen. Using a breakdown of statistics on Cycling Ireland members, and the findings of a survey that was circulated to female members, the key focus of the discussion centred on the need for a second tier of competition.

Cycling Ireland CEO, Geoff Liffey, opened the forum, welcoming the discussion that would follow, highlighting the importance of encouraging more people to compete in cycling and the strong tradition Ireland has in bike racing.

Following that Lydia Boylan and Lara Gillespie both shared their experiences in the sport. Lara made history this summer, becoming the first Irish cyclist to win a medal in the European Youth Olympic Festival, last July. Lydia is a professional cyclist competing for WNT Procycling Team, and this year became the first Irish woman to win a stage of a professional race by crossing the line first in the Tour of Valencia.

Both riders spoke about how they found the sport, with Lara highlighting the importance of having friends in sport, who understand the motivations behind competing. Both riders are competitive by nature, and enjoy racing, and Lydia pointed out that some woman may not know how competitive they are, or how much they would enjoy racing.


Following that Heather Boyle, Communications Officer with Cycling Ireland made a presentation on the membership breakdown in Cycling Ireland – highlighting that while almost 20% of the members are female, less than 10% of riders over 16 hold a competitive licence of any sort (junior, full or limited). She also pointed out that there are only 26 female junior riders in the 32 counties, and that this needs to be addressed.



A survey of 19 questions was filled in by 171 female cyclists – and the findings were very interesting. Melanie Spath from the Women’s Commission presented the key findings, which highlighted many things, including the definite need for a female grading system, the need for a second tier of racing, and the need for more beginner leagues right around the country.



These findings fed a constructive discussion, which saw cyclists from right around the country discuss what the next steps would be.

The following actions were decided upon at the end of the forum, which led into the Women’s Commission AGM, with the following proposed actions:

  1. Women’s Grading System – With 96% of those who completed the survey expressing the need for a grading system for women, this is something that Cycling Ireland will explore, and follow up on.

  2. New Sub-Committee for National Leagues – Three people volunteered to be par of the sub-committee that will look at ways of developing and promoting more leagues, specifically the new second tier of racing, or intermediate standard event.

  3. Beginner Leagues – There is a developed pack that describes how to run beginner’s leagues. 30 people expressed an interest in assisting with the roll out of these leagues, and geographically there is a need for another one in Munster, in Connacht, and also one in Kildare. All those who expressed an interest in this will be contacted, and action will be taken from there.

  4. Specific Coaching Days - The survey highlighted an appetite for specific coaching days targeting national championships or national leagues – this can be explored within the women in sport funding with Cycling Ireland.

  5. Joint Triathlon Ireland and Cycling Ireland licence – it was suggested that be reaching an agreement between the two organisations more women, especially, would be encouraged into the sport – with the beginner leagues likely to be attractive. This is a conversation that is already taking place between Cycling Ireland and Triathlon Ireland – so further updates will be communicated.

  6. Youth & Talent Team Structures – It was highlighted that there needs to be more focus on girls cycling, highlighting a discrepancy between the prizes awarded to boys and to girls, the opportunities for girls following selection races, and the limited number of girls only races. Geoff Liffey pointed out that the structures in youth cycling are currently undergoing changes, with Cycling Ireland placing a focus on adding changes to existing structures. These changes will be communicated in the coming months from Cycling Ireland.

  7. Women’s Pathway – there was some discussion on the high-performance pathway in the sport, and the HP structure in Cycling Ireland. Cycling Ireland will be in discussion with the Women’s Commission regarding this.

  8. Women’s Commission Strategy - There was some discussion around the Women’s Commission Strategy and who they represent, acknowledging it was established primarily as a Women’s Road Racing Commission. Over the years it has evolved to be representative of all things related to women’s cycling. It was agreed that the specific remit of the Women’s Commission should be assessed, to ensure that all the other commissions are aware that they represent both men and women.

Suggestions for changes to the Women’s Commission were:

    • Bursary scheme like that of the Track Commission to be considered
    • More emphasis and support on Women’s Commission website was sought
    • It was agreed that more female members are required on the Board of Cycling Ireland and on Sub-Committees – where statistics show that on average 8% of members on Cycling Ireland committees and the Board are female (leaving out the Women’s Commission)

  1. Motions for CI AGM
    • In all youth races with boys and girl’s prizes for 1-3 Boys and Girls should be provided not just unplaced girls
    • A motion to abolish the option for women to step 2 years down in a category in youth cycling.

  2. Junior Cycling – a discussion took place regarding the 6-person minimum for the National Championships, and it was decided that for the road racing, particularly, this minimum starting number is appropriate – but that efforts must be taken to ensure junior women’s cycling is grown. However, it was also highlighted that the scheduling of events is key in getting that 6-person minimum turn out.
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