Lady Gnar Shredders: Bringing Women Into Racing

Lady Gnar Shredder kits -front of jersey and shorts

Look for the new Lady Gnar Shredders kits on the trail this spring.

Columbus, Ohio has a new cycling team with a feminine twist – Lady Gnar Shredders (LGS).  They are an all-female team in a sport dominated by males.

What is Gnar Shredding?  I looked it up for you.  From Urban Dictionary:

Shred the Gnar – verb

  • to shred the gnar originated in the early days of skateboarding. gnar shredding has become popular for many ‘extreme sports’ including skiing and snowboarding.
  • To go big, never stop or give up; accept the reality that anything is possible, and everything can be accomplished if you set your mind to it.

These ladies aren’t just mountain biking though, they are willing to tackle any cycling event that you throw their way.  The LGS are focused on bringing more women into the sport and nurturing new talent, but they have no qualms about showing off their competitive spirit either.  They dominated the podium in the Cap City Cross Series this winter.  Their team leader, Kristen Arnold finished 1st in the overalls.  Be on the lookout for their striking purple and teal jerseys on the trail (and the podium) this spring.

I wanted to learn more about the origins of the team and why it’s good for women to have an all-female team so I reached out to Kristen.

Lady Gnar Shredders jersey - Close-up of chest

James: Kristen, give us some background…  Name, Age, number of years racing, Highlights of your mountain biking career (could be awards or just awesome rides that you enjoyed)?

Kristen Arnold, Team Leader of Lady Gnar Shredders: I’m 23 and have been racing road, mountain, and cyclocross disciplines for 3 years.  With regards to mountain biking, I went at it full force and started racing my first season of playing in the dirt.  This did not come easily, as I had a fractured wrist for 2 months and bruises and scrapes all over my body for about 6 months.  I was on a supportive local team and had many helping hands to take me out on rides and coach me.

Kristen Arnold in the 2013 Tour Divide

Kristen Arnold in the 2013 Tour Divide – this race follows the western continental divide from Canada to Mexico. She finished with the 4th fastest women’s time in the history of the event.

As for my accomplishments, my greatest in mountain biking and arguably life was my completion and placing in Tour Divide. TD is the longest and most difficult mountain bike race in the world, spanning from Banff Canada to Antelope Wells New Mexico along the continental divide. Terrain consists of single-track, dirt and gravel roads, hiking trails, double track etc. The route is 2,800 miles with 300,000 feet of elevation. I completed TD in 23 days with the 4th fastest women’s time in the history of the race.  When I competed in 2013 there were 140 men and just 2 women who started the race.  The deficit of women in TD is just one example of why I am inspired and driven to bring more women into competitive cycling.

Was the team your idea?  Tell us about the roots of the team?

Lady Gnar Shredders was not my idea initially, but I have been a primary instigator in seeing its fruition.

LGS was originally just a facebook group created by Katie Arnold to allow women to communicate about rides, events etc. There are many women cyclists around, it’s just not always easy to find them.

Background: Lady Gnar Shredders was launched in November of 2013 here in Columbus Ohio.  We exist to support women racers and bring more women into all disciplines of competitive cycling including road, mountain, and cyclocross.  Currently we have 23 Race Development Squad members and 11 Team Members.

Katie Arnold started the original Lady Gnar Shredders Facebook page.

Katie Arnold started the original Lady Gnar Shredders Facebook page that inspired the formation of the team.

The Race Development Squad functions as a group of women of all skill levels who are interested in and excited to participate in competitive cycling events.  In addition to racing, squad members participate in training rides, clinics, and events which benefit the community. The Team is composed of women-racers who have had experience in racing for at least one year and are passionate about mentoring new racers.  Many of these women participate in cycling events at the elite level, and LGS serves to support them as well.  The Team exists to support and mentor the squad members by organizing clinics, races, rides, and social events as well as participate in our mentorship program for women in competitive cycling.  LGS is not just about helping women enter racing, it is also about empowering women through sports.

How did you come up with the name?

To honor this spark in connecting women cyclists, we kept the name for our more formal attempt to organize women cyclists.  We utilize the term Gnar Shredding as a symbol of the ‘give it your all’ mentality we strive to embody as individuals and a team.

Why do you think it’s important for there to be women-specific teams and events?  Is it better for the women to be separate than to be integrated into other teams?  Why?

I can’t tell you the number of practices, group rides, and cycling events where I was outnumbered by dozens to hundreds of men.

Lady Gnar Shredders first training road ride

The Lady Gnar Shredders stop at the Something Sweet Coffee and Bakery for espresso and peppermint brownies during their first training road ride of 42 miles.

There is a great deficit of women in competitive cycling with a generous ratio of 1 woman to every 4 men who compete.  We believe women-supporting-women is the most effective way to bring more women into competitive cycling and lessen this gender gap.  Creating a women-focused environment is an effective tool in breaking the biggest barrier for women entering into the sport, intimidation.  Many of the women on the squad feel racing is more inviting and fun when shared with a group of supportive women, as opposed to going to a race alone and likely being one of very few women.  We host no-drop group rides weekly, women-focused clinics and provide other supportive resources for women to excel as athletes.  Clinics include mountain bike, road, cyclocross, nutrition, yoga and stretching, basic mechanics and more.  Lately we have had many indoor trainer rides to keep up with training in these frigid temperatures and get to know each other before road season comes around.  Lady Gnar Shredders also exists to give women a sense of comradery in a male-dominated sport.

What are the top-tier events for the Lady Gnar Shredders this season and why were they picked?

Because we are spread between so many disciplines, it is difficult to choose specific events to focus on.  In general we are anticipated to have a strong road team in the women’s 1/2/3 field in the Ohio Spring Road Series, a number of women in the expert fields in 331 and OMBC mountain bike series, and some serious podiuming in the Cap City Cross series and other cx events.  One event are excited about which is coming up in March is Barry Roubaix. We will have women in the elite (60 miles) to beginner (25 mile) races.  Barry Roubaix is considered a gravel road race ridden with cx and mountain bikes.

What are your mountain biking goals for 2014?

Lauren Kraft is the mountain bike ambassador for the Lady Gnar Shredders.

Lauren Kraft is the mountain bike ambassador for the Lady Gnar Shredders.

Lauren Kraft is our mountain bike ambassador.  She has a deep love for the dirt, and has been racing for 3 years.  Her first season she won every race she competed in, and now she wants to share her passion for mountain biking with other women.  She will be organizing a women-focused mountain bike race clinic and also serves as the liaison for any women wanting to enter mountain bike racing.  We are honored to bring on Heidi Coulter, Shannon Tenwalde, and Julie Lewis-Sroka.  Heidi and Shannon have dominated the expert fields in OMBC for the past several years as well as several NUE Series races, and Julie has placed in the top ten in several high-profile events such as Ice Man.  Strong women like these will not only be an inspiration for new racers, but serve as valuable mentors.

This is the first year for LGS. We are very excited to see more women out on the race course, and learn more about how we can better support women entering the sport.

You can learn more about the Lady Gnar Shredders at their website.  Subscribing to Quickdirt.com in the right-hand column is a great way to get updates about the cycling community.  We are also active on Facebook and Twitter too, so make sure and follow our social media feeds!

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Back of the new kits for the Lady Gnar Shredders.