Recap of the Women's Beginner Race Clinic

Contributions by Karen Burman, Rebecca Feldman, Kristina Grossmann, Betsy Hafkin, Kimberly Hilger, Kendall Poe, Alliana Semjen, and Elizabeth Tobey

June 18, 2018 was the second Women’s Beginner Bike Race Clinic of the year. As a part of the mission of the CRCA Nancy Morgenstern Memorial Fund’s Women’s Development Series presented by Specialized, the goal is to create community and lower the barriers for women to give bike racing a try in a sport dominated by men. The Beginner Bike Race clinic was a huge success, with a majority of the women who took part being first time racers. The race was extremely active after the neutral start, with a high pace being set. There was quickly a group of about 15 riders pushing the pace at the front, they held it steady until the third time up Harlem Hill when Kendall Poe attacked and got off the front. She held a steady gap, but soon a chase group of three formed, which included Alliana Semjen, Kristina Grossman, and Maura Hays. The three of them worked together and gained ground on Kendall, catching her right at the line!

Below is a collection of thoughts from the racers on the Beginner Race Clinic:

CRCA is one of the most inviting clubs I've joined. As a veteran cyclist but an absolute newbie in regard to racing and competitive cycling, I was apprehensive about joining something so official, but CRCA has done an amazing job not only helping teach important skills to riders but creating a fun, inviting atmosphere for them to test out racing and grow as a cyclist and a competitor. I've taken part in two beginner clinics this year and found end-to-end the experience super welcoming and easy. Not many would feel comfortable riding into a group of strangers before the sun rises to race, but from the moment you show up, CRCA walks you through where you should be, what you need to know, what to expect in the race, and above all, tells you to have fun. Mentors ride with you throughout the ride, and if you fall behind the peloton (as in my case) there are marshals along the route to cheer you on and mentors at the end of the race to clap as you sprint to the finish. Post-race, CRCA does an excellent recap of what happened in the race, gives you information on how and when you can race again, and makes a point of giving out token prizes to people who did well during the event. By including folks who sprinted well, or worked well together, they make the entire experience awesome for people who might not have finished top of the list but rode a fantastic race - and that's really what beginner's racing is all about: learning, working together, and getting better. 

As you can see, I'm an evangelist for CRCA. I love seeing the improvement, of helping others during their first races (even though I'm still new myself) and am excited to be part of growing the field of new women racers. 

One of my friends encouraged me to try bike racing. I was scared to dip me toes into the racing waters until I heard about the CRCA beginner’s clinic race. CRCA offered a free race coaching session the Friday before the race where one of the coaches explained all the details about where to show up, what to do, as well as offering us race tips that we could try out on race day. It made me feel safe and ready. On race day, it helped to have a few friends from the coaching session that I recognized. There were a bunch of experienced cyclists there to help pin on our numbers and to make sure that we had a fun, safe, and competitive race. It was one of the highlights of my year. I met a bunch of amazing women that are equally passionate about cycling. I can’t wait for my next race.

What a great experience! The clinic was a really friendly and fun introduction to racing. The mentors that were riding near me during the race were super helpful. I didn’t come close to winning but finished the race smiling and wanting to get involved in more!

I never wanted to race, but a racer friend coerced me into doing it. The morning of the beginner clinic there was a strong positive energy, combined with a mix of fear and excitement. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was sure I wasn’t going to like it. We lined up at the start and I spotted who I thought was the strongest rider…I’ll refer to her as the “Beast”.  We were told we would probably break up into groups. To my surprise when we broke up, I was in the strongest group. As soon as the race started my indifference changed to excitement and I found a grin across my face. It felt like the best roller coaster ride ever. When I crossed the finished line, I thought that was incredibly fun and I was on such a high and was ready for more.  I am so happy that I discovered racing…just when I thought riding a bike couldn’t get better it did and exponentially.

This was my very first race experience. Coach Tara and the mentors were so great in making sure this was first and foremost an informative but also fun experience for all of us. I pulled up to this race not knowing anyone but I left having met and shared the road with an amazing group of women who all put on a hell of a race. I look forward to seeing and racing against these ladies again soon!

I think we all have inner saboteurs, and mine was definitely awake at 3 AM that morning: 'Probably shouldn't go, didn't train enough, you were sick those few days, remember?' But I went and am so glad I did. Racing in Central Park is a supreme privilege that Tara and the other mentors shared with us. How often do you get to ride that fast in New York City with other bad-ass women?

What a great day on the bike. The only thing I regret is not doing it sooner. All of the coaches and other racers were extremely supportive and it was really fun to be able to be unapologetically competitive and push myself to new limits. It was my first race but definitely not my last. If you've ever thought about it get out there and do it. It's good for you and good for women's racing.

The Beginner Bike Race was two of my bucket list experiences in one: riding in Central Park for the first time… and racing in a group for the first time.  I loved the exhilaration and multi-layered challenge of those three laps in Central Park. The experienced marshals riding alongside helped me feel safe enough to push myself harder than I’d thought possible and managed to impart counter-intuitive wisdom even as we raced along.  Even if you only get to do this once, do it!


1. Alliana Semjen (#9)

2. Kristina Grossmann (#14)

3. Maurya Hays (#17)

4. Kendall Poe (#2)

5. Tiffany Thomas (#6)

6. Jenny Zarzuela (#1)

7. Karen Burman (#16)

8. Alana Garber (#7)

9. Betsy Hafkin (#24)

10. Dana Haberem (#11)

11. Clare Coughlin (#21)

12. Rosemary Bolich (#26)

13. Sasha Orlick (#25)

14. Shirah Wercberger (#20)

15. Amy Sarah Hreha (#15)

16. Michelle Papa (#13)

17. Kimberly Hilger (#23)

18. Diane Akerman (#22)

19. Rebecca Feldman (#10)

20. Zenaida Ayala (#28)

21. Anya Soubbotina (#3)

22. Elizabeth Toby (#4)

23. Katrina Neumann (#5)

24. Patty Lee (#27)