Cinderella 2012: Flahuttes

Cinderella women in the rain
Cinderella 2012: Flahuttes In The Rain!

This past Saturday Roger and I, as usual, worked the registration tables at the 36th Annual Cinderella Classic and Challenge put on by the Valley Spokesmen (sic). It’s amazing to think that this ride has been put on annually for 36 years–since 1977–and with the same core leadership of Bonnie and Bob Powers. The Cinderella is likely the oldest female-only cycling event in the world and regularly maxes out its registration. Bob Powers told me that this year the event drew participants from 14 states (including Alabama!) and several other countries. This year about 2,500 folks were set to ride, but distressingly the weather report for the day was for rain and high wind. That didn’t deter a huge number of women from showing up anyway.

Saturday morning the rain had yet to make an appearance but fleets of dark clouds were quickly blowing out of the south. We had to show up at registration by 6:30 a.m. for the 7 a.m. opening. We got there early and were greeted by a line of participants eager to get their materials and take off. Despite the prospect of getting drenched and blown willy-nilly, women were excitedly chatting about the ride and with smiles on their faces.

Promptly at 7 we opened up and the horde streamed in. With so many participants registration was divided roughly into one line for each letter of the alphabet. Roger and I were working the M’s and probably had about 100+ packets each to give out. Despite the hectic pace of working registration it’s a bit of a kick. You get to briefly meet a huge variety of women and preview their fashion statement for the day. The most popular–and always a hit–is the cycling tutu, usually pink. Tiaras and feather boas vied for attention and Raggedy Ann socks were another perennial favorite. What ran through my mind was how those tutus were going to feel when they were waterlogged. The more sagacious riders came equipped with sensible clothing: waterproof rain jackets, pants, and shoe covers. In place of tiaras they sported plastic shower caps over their helmets. And, in a bit of a time warp there were quite a few women wearing cycling rain ponchos–OMG, I remember those from the 1970’s!! Old-timers–and there were gobs of them–showed off their collection of Cinderella patches from years past. A few women brought their bikes into the hall and I could see out the doors women passing by on their bikes or parking them. There were more fenders than I had seen in years past (smart!) but it was disconcerting to see so many without fenders. I know I hate riding with a wet ass. Nowadays the padding in shorts is thicker and when it gets wet it’s like a diaper–ugh!

Seeing a scad of cyclists who just happen to only be women also had me thinking about men’s and women’s cycling fashions. These days fashionable men’s kit is all black and white (and maybe some red) in very form fitting cuts: think Assos, Capo, Castelli. Sure, you see your share of loud, garish Primal jerseys and faux pro kits but it’s really starting to tone down a bit (thank god). For men it’s all about primary colors. For cycling clothes women have it so much better for colors: they can get jackets and jerseys in pastels (straight) men wouldn’t dare to sport, and designs which are much less “look at me!” Ah, clothes envy. Maybe I should do more cycling cross dressing… On the other hand, women could use some serious help when it comes to the cut of their jackets. There seems to be a lot more clothing designed for women but apparently not enough because some were wearing what looked to be men’s clothing with a traditional straight chest cut. It just looked uncomfortable.

The crowd started to die down about 8 o’clock and after that it was occasional pulses of women streaming in to get their material. It still wasn’t raining yet, and clearly a lot of women were hoping to get an early start perhaps to try to outrun the storm front. But then it started to rain continuously and animated chatter among the women coming in was replaced with grimmer demeanors. I saw a couple of women cob plastic bags from the “Problems” table and pull them over their feet before putting their cycling shoes on. (And one of the women also had shoe covers–now that’s what I call serious!) A few women came in and asked to pick up registration packets for friends who they said had backed out but still wanted their patch. Hmm, isn’t that sort of, um, unearned? Well, I guess if you’ve paid your $60 or whatever, you are entitled to something. A mother and daughter came in and got their registration; they had come from Utah and rain wasn’t going to deter them from riding!

By the time registration officially closed, at 9, it was soaking outside and yet there were still a few latecomers planning to head out (!!!) Bob Powers had said that the most no-shows the Cinderella had ever had was about 600 in another wet year. Both Roger and I had given out more than half of our packets, so we would estimate that maybe 60-70% showed up. That’s still a lot of cyclists–about 1,400 or so.

Leaving registration we had to walk about a quarter mile to the car. It was coming down hard and the wind was blowing the rain sideways. A few women had turned around and were heading back to the registration hall. More than rain itself it was the hideous wind that was making it tough. I’m not sure that it would be easy to see while riding (let alone being seen by car drivers!) By the time we were on I-680 and heading home we had the windshield wipers on full and could barely see out the windshield. Cars were driving 50 m.p.h. and had huge roostertails shooting from behind. The wind was pushing the car sideways. Jeez, there were women cyclists out in that weather? Now, that’s a bunch of flahuttes. (Note: flahute is Flemish for a ‘hard man’ who can race through the hardest conditions.)