Robin Farina ran a bike shop in Charlotte, N.C.
Business was good. Word was out that this world-class cyclist knew her stuff. She had won the 2011 National Road Race, was a U.S. Olympic long team member and was sought after by riders-in-training.
She had sponsors. She rode for NOW and Novartis for MS. By others’ standards, things were good in the world of women’s cycling for Robin Farina.
But Farina saw a bigger picture. Maybe thanks to her successes, she discovered that women’s cycling was background music to the men’s events.
She knew the women’s purses were minuscule. She’d won her share and that money didn’t go far. She knew women’s opportunities were limited in all kinds of racing, and in turn, she discovered that associations and clubs weren’t doing enough to draw women to cycling.
Farina switched gears.
In moving west to Smartsville (near Grass Valley), Farina found she had more chances to train up-and-coming riders. Meanwhile, she and a group of top-notch female cyclists formed the Women’s Cycling Association — and then she stumbled upon the Davis Bike Club.
It was a busy but rewarding year, says the 37-year-old champion who has put her riding career on hold while trying to foster WCA growth, working with the Davis Bike Club as women’s race team coordinator and accepting a seat on the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame board of directors.
“I didn’t know anybody in Davis after I first moved here,” said Farina, who ran into DBC’s Jason Eisenrich at Fourth of July races in downtown Davis during 2013. “Jason is the guy who really got me in (to Davis Bike Club).”
Now she’s in, with both feet… And Farina believes having DBC and the USBHOF just down the hill from her new home can only be good for both her and the new Women’s Cycling Association.
“For the WCA, the goal is to elevate the sport at the pro level while growing it from the grassroots level so we can have a support system,” Farina explains. “Without more women riding bikes, there’s never going to be growth in our sport.”
Enter the DBC and its female race team.
“It used to be very competitive. And now I’ve found a group of really strong women in the Davis Bike Club,” Farina continues. “We have three-fold goals with DBC …
“1) We want more women just getting on bikes; a healthy lifestyle, enjoying cycling. 2) Be able to offer education about cycling — if someone wanted to do a race, if someone wanted to do a group ride, then there’s an avenue for you to feel confident and educated and feel like there’s a group for (your ability level). 3) Build a strong race team in NorCal for Davis again.”
Farina thinks things are on track. Ask new team member Makenzie Delaughder …
“My twin (Peyton) rides,” the former Davis High soccer player told The Enterprise. “It looked like fun, but you have to develop skills before you jump into racing.”
Farina says Delaughder, 19, is perfect for the road.
“It takes a certain personality to race. You have to be competitive … you have to be driven. And just the way she is on a bike, she’s a natural.”
Delaughder is expected to ride her first competitive outing at Saturday’s Dunning Hills Road Race.
“When you have very good coaching, it’s very encouraging,” says Delaughder, looking straight at mentor Farina. “For me it was ‘Wow, these guys are fast!’ I didn’t know if I could keep up with them.”
Now she knows.
For the WCA and its DBC relationship, it seems to be working out.
A well-attended spring showing of a women’s cycling documentary, “Half the Road,” was following by a June biking clinic in Davis. Another clinic is planned later this month or in early September.
Farina says female club members are up (maybe 20 percent of the 600-member DBC).
The WCA already is working on a global basis.
Farina spent time in Paris this month to work with other groups to provide heavy-duty bicycles to women in Third World countries. Farina hopes the new transportation will enable the women to go to work or school.
On the home front, the organization is presenting the Tour de Cure in the fall (both in Santa Barbara and San Francisco) to raise money to fight diabetes.
“WCA at its core wants to see the sport grow,” Farina adds. “We want things to be on par with men’s cycling. We train just as hard, we compete just as hard.
“The more we talk to promoters, it’s about communication and having companies and organizations look at women as a viable marketing opportunity.
“It’s not as hard as I originally thought it was going to be. For the most part, everyone wants to see us succeed and do well.”
While it’s not exactly downhill from here, the WCA might soon level the roadway.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.