6 Days of Kissena
Words by Kelly Neuner
Women’s cycling has made huge progress in recent years, but we still have far to go when it comes to representation in racing. Here in New York City, we have a strong women’s cycling community, but our presence on the track is smaller than in disciplines like road or cross. To help address this absence, nine other women and I started a track-focused team, Formula Femme, last year. We wanted to grow the local women’s field, but we also wanted to prove women can start racing from scratch. When the team started, many of our members had never set foot on a velodrome, and we’d only ridden track bikes in alley cats. Over the winter we hustled to get our bikes, kits, and sponsors, and after months of planning and training, the fun part is finally here: our first season of racing!
New Yorkers race track at Kissena Velodrome in Flushing, Queens, and although it’s hard to get to for a bunch of Brooklyn-based women, it’s always worth the trip. Last Saturday, a handful of us headed out for the third day of the 6 Days of Kissena series, which kicks off the season here every year. It wasn’t just any race day; this was Ladies’ Day, an afternoon focused specifically on encouraging more women to come to the track. Pretty Damned Fast and King Kog Brooklyn, two of our sponsors, paid for all the women’s entry fees and cash prize payouts. We were looking forward to join in this celebration of women at the track, especially because the women’s field for this year’s 6 Days series has been one of the strongest in recent years.
Each day of the series includes three races and an end-of day “feature” that pits the strongest riders of the day against each other for a bonus prize. For two of our teammates, Mandi Hershkowitz and Marcy Cruthirds, Saturday was their first race day, and they joined a robust women’s Cat 4 field of 15 racers. The field included our teammate Kim Melton, there for her second day of racing at the track. As they lined up against the rail to start their first race, Kim gave Mandi and Marcy pointers about the day ahead, particularly the importance of being comfortable in a tight pack. By the last race of the day, all three of our riders were syncing up seamlessly into a paceline during the feature race, helping each other gain on the Cat 3 racers ahead. It was exciting to watch my teammates shift from quiet and anxious before the first race, to heightened levels of confidence and excitement as they progressed through each event.
But the most heartening thing I took away from Ladies’ Day was witnessing so much support among the women at Kissena, even though it’s early in the season. I overheard another racer compliment Kim on a break she made to lead the pack for half a lap, and we all cheered on the friends we know from racing alley cats. Even though we ride for different teams, at the end of the day, we care most about strengthening our field and getting out on the velodrome. Win or lose, we’re looking forward to the challenges ahead in our first season and are excited to share our experiences here over the next few months.
You can learn more about Formula Femme here.