I arrived at the beautiful Lydiard Park on a slightly damp and cloudy day, but the weather didn't seem to dampen spirits. The main arena sported bright colourful banners, secure cycle parking facilities, extra toilets, information stalls and, of course, the famous "pamper zone".
I was one of around 150 ladies who decided to take on the 40km challenge. Additional ladies were brave enough to embark on the 75km challenge, and although I am an experienced cyclist who enjoys a long-distance blast, today was a rare occasion for me to cycle amongst female cyclists and soak up the gorgeous views around the outskirts of Swindon.
Gathered at the start line I admired the most amount of pink I'd ever seen in a mass cycling event. The Mayor sounded a horn and we rolled over the timing mats to embark on our journey. A mix of winding and undulating quiet country roads awaited us, giving ample opportunity to chat to fellow ladies along the way. Many were there as motivation to get back into sport cycling, others simply fancied a challenge or felt guilty for owning a bike they rarely used.
No-one I spoke to along the way is what you would class as a "hardened cyclist", and yet the front-runners were averaging up to 25kph! Proof that ladies aren't weak. Perhaps it takes a non-threatening, non-masculine atmosphere to really bring some ladies out of their shells. Perhaps we judge our abilities on men's abilities too much. Either way, I think ladies-only events are alive and well and on the increase. CTC has already hosted two successful ladies only challenge rides in 2011, and I for one can't wait for the next lot.
Keep an eye on www.ctcchallengerides.co.uk  for updates on our non-race mass cycling events.