Amateur Women to Conquer TDF

Peloton Magazine’s Heidi Swift will be riding and writing from France as a member of the Rêve Women’s Team that is riding the entire route of the 2012 TDF on behalf of Bikes Belong. Here Heidi talks about her preparation, equipment and thoughts about the Tour de France.

Rêve 2012 | Heidi Swift introduces the Women’s Grand Tour Project from velodramatic on Vimeo.

Six women, from different cycling backgrounds, will be riding the Tour de France route from Liège to Paris (3479 km!) from July 2 through July 21 with the Rêve Women’s Project.  Rêve is a company that takes a team of 15 riders on the tour route every year, and this year they’ve partnered with Bikes Belong, a non-profit cycling advocacy organization composed of a national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers committed to “making bicycling in the U.S. safer and better,” and six amazing female cyclists.

From the Rêve website:

In what we believe will be a first for women’s cycling, a team of six amateur women will take on the ultimate road cycling challenge of a complete grand tour. Starting in Liège one day ahead of the pro peloton our riders will complete the entire parcours of the 2012 Tour de France arriving in Paris on the 21st of July. In the process they’ll prove to themselves, other female cyclists, and women thinking about taking up the sport, that any bicycle dream is possible.

In true Rêve fashion they’ll stay in the same spartan hotels and endure the unrelenting grind of daily transfers that define the annual three-week test of heart, mind and legs.

I’m inspired by these women.  I like what they are trying to do!  I’m following Heidi Swift’s dispatches to peloton magazine, and in her latest article, “Not Picture Perfect,” she talks about cobbling together their team.

Teams are built on shared experience. Teams are founded on trust that is created and nurtured over time, through training or togetherness. A team is more than six women stuffed into the same spandex superhero outfit.

We’re learning to work together slowly. We’re not forcing it. We’re meshing the riding styles (and personalities!) of a randonneur with a crit racer with a pro triathlete. You think that’s easy? It’s not. But we’re making it happen.

We are making this up as we go. And we are doing the best we can.  Every day, it’s a little bit better. We’re having hard conversations and making strategic decisions. It was rocky at first and it’s getting sorted out.

Swift’s writing is descriptive, motivating, and highly personal.  I’m really appreciating her voice.  Even if you’re not into le Tour, you might want to check out this team of women.

Jonathan Maus of BikePortland has an interview with Heidi Swift where he asks, “Besides the fundraising for Bikes Belong, how do you think the ride (and accompanying media coverage) will help women’s cycling in the U.S.?”  Swift answers,

To be honest, I think that this is an interesting challenge regardless of gender and I think that’s what makes it powerful. If we continue and drive the ongoing national discussion about women on bikes (and I expect we will) by providing one more point of visibility and a story that is compelling, all the better.

That said, I think this project will really resonate with women. In the summer of 2010 I did a lot of solo touring. I rode all around Central and Eastern Oregon and then rode up to Canada past Whistler. I camped for most of that trip and spent very long days on the road by myself. I was lucky enough to be able to write a few columns for the Oregonian about it and the response really shocked me: women of every age and background contacted me about the adventure with questions or personal stories about things they’d always wanted to do but had put off for various reasons. I corresponded with women about what it’s like to ride alone, how to prepare physically and financially and the realities of being safe in the world.

What struck me most about that trip, those stories and those interactions was that the appeal was pretty universal – some of the women actually wanted to do a solo bike tour but some of them wanted to fly planes or simply take a long roadtrip in a car. Regardless, the more universal idea of planning and then actually doing some big “life dream” type adventure really resonated. I think similar principles will apply here. Also, I know that for me personally, when I see someone doing something really challenging, it always inspires me to question my own assumptions about what I’m capable of.

I can relate to challenging your own assumptions and allowing yourself to reach your full potential.  Is it fear that holds us back?  Is it self-doubt?  Either way, having role models and seeing other women conquering an epic life dream is inspiring, and makes me want to do something big.

Best of luck, Team!