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Why We Need More All-Women, All-Level Events: An Interview with Liz Caracciolo

By Megan Flottorp

“I believe finding like-minded people who share a desire for personal growth and development has a lot of value. You then have support when you’re getting out of your comfort zone and feeling most vulnerable.”

Attending a cycling event can be a life-changing experience. From meeting someone who will end up being a dear friend or mentor to proving to yourself that you’re brave enough to try something new—there is plenty of magic on offer when cyclists get together to challenge themselves.

Unfortunately, events can also be intimidating, exclusive spaces that leave a lot of bike lovers opting to take a pass. Women, in particular, often mention feeling excluded or overwhelmed at events, and that remains a key reason why their participation numbers are lower.

Ignite All Women's Bike Ride
© Ignite

Liz Caracciolo is trying to change that. As a growth, business and fitness expert, Liz has dedicated her life to pushing herself physically and mentally to unleash her full potential, with the purpose to help other women do the same. A star athlete on the basketball court in college, she has also competed in dozens of races, marathons and triathlons, including the Arizona Ironman. And now, she’s aiming to give more women cyclists a taste of that feeling of accomplishment.

Last weekend, her organisation, Ignite Events, hosted the First Inclusive All-Women’s Bike Event for women of all ages with courses for all skill levels in Fountain Hills, Arizona, USA. On April 10, the multi-length event gave women a chance to come together and accomplish personal growth, cultivate connections and realise a meaningful personal achievement. With guest speakers, services, and experts also available to provide support, this event was all about becoming part of an engaged and cohesive community and overcoming the fear and intimidation of joining a fitness event. As this is a concept we obviously love, we were glad to have the chance to talk to Liz about the importance of all-women spaces in sport, how to find a healthy balance in competition, and why we need more resources to address the mental side of cycling.

So, Liz, I have to say that you have a very impressive athletic background! Of course, not everyone is driven to pursue things at the level you did. Still, I think something that resonates with almost anyone who has fallen in love with a sport is that after seeking a new challenge and starting to make milestones, you can feel confident to do something else. At the upcoming event, how will you help women tap into the potential of this feeling?

The event was designed with this very intention in mind. We wanted to offer something including distances that would attract beginner level riders through advanced riders. We wanted women entering the sport to see what is possible from the very start of the event as they gather in prep for the start. Additionally, the short course will be complete prior to the 20-mile and 40-mile distances and riders will have the opportunity to watch more experienced riders complete their respective goals. Lastly, our community is connected through digital channels where participants can share their experiences and accomplishments and allows all members to celebrate along with them.

It sounds fantastic! In addition to the various levels represented, what kind of resources do you offer that help women work on the mental aspect of sports or cycling?

What a great question. Pushing our limits includes doing something new for the first time. We are partnered with resources that are experts in their specific fields surrounding physical fitness. We share these resources via video interviews with our community to educate them in areas such as mineral health and body recovery to increase their understanding of maintaining a healthy and strong status while pushing their limits. By providing this information and access to these resources, we believe we positively impact one’s mind by reducing uncertainty and fear as they venture out of their comfort zones.

Ignite all women's ride
© Ignite

Do you have any advice for women who are casual cyclists intrigued by the sport but can’t manage to overcome the imposter syndrome?

Yes! Connect with others (either through our IGNITE Community or people you know) who have riding experience. Many people who love the sport will be happy to answer your questions and share tips that make your experience more positive. Another great option is to find a group ride near you by contacting your local bicycle shop. If they don’t host their own group rides, they certainly will know of those in the area. Explain that you are newer to the sport, and they will put you in contact with the right group/fit!

Why do you think it is important that we carve out specific spaces for women both in sports and society in general?

In general, I believe finding like-minded people that share a desire for personal growth and development has a lot of value. Then you have others to provide support when you’re getting out of your comfort zone and feeling most vulnerable—creating spaces for women can enhance the journey through support and shared experiences.

What do you think are the most significant barriers preventing women from getting into cycling? What kind of resources will be available at the event to help fight this?

Cycling includes a piece of equipment as a critical ingredient. It takes time to learn the mechanics and to feel more in control of your riding experience. Additionally, riding along with traffic is also a common concern from a fear and safety perspective. Our event provides an opportunity for riders to experience a longer distance ride on the road in a more comfortable setting.

What would you say to women who want to get in shape but aren’t sure about the idea of competition in a sport? What role do you think competition plays, and how do you make sure you keep your relationship to it a healthy one?

Events provide more than an opportunity to compete. It is a time when like-minded individuals come together to accomplish something important to them. The goal might include competing with others. Goals can also include everything from achieving a personal challenge like completing an event or enjoying the energy and spirit of a large group of people gathering to celebrate a sport or activity. Competition can motivate many people to push out of their comfort zone. Others, meanwhile, can simply be inspired by those around them to try something new or enjoy the process of achieving a new bar that they have set for themselves. I can be personally motivated by both; however, a more significant driver is achieving the goal I set out to achieve.