Kirsten Jensen and the rest of the Jack’s Bicycle Center team finished third in the Competitive Women’s Division last year. In 2015, they finished second.
The podium finishes are nice, but for Jensen, competing in another Ski to Sea is less about finishing strong and more about being strong.
Half of Jensen’s team is made by members of Queens of Dirt, an all-female, Jack’s-sponsored mountain bike and cyclocross team focused on empowering women through bicycle sports.
While Bellingham is blessed with a large female cycling community, Jensen said cycling as a whole tends to be and be portrayed as a male-dominated sport. But through competing with Queens of Dirt and her Ski to Sea team, Jensen wants to help change that perception.
“We feel really strongly that racing provides women a sense of confidence,” she said. “When women race, they push what they think are their perceived limits. When I ride with strong women and I see them do hard things, it makes me feel like I can do it, too.”
I like feeling strong and racing, and feeling that it’s not about what we look like or what the scale says or what the media thinks we (should) look like.
That confidence, she said, can help women overcome a sense of fear and boundaries. Having an all-women’s team, she added, helps women promote a sense of self-sufficiency.
The Jack’s Bicycle Center team – in its fourth year of existence and third in the Women’s Competitive division – consists of eight women who all race their Ski to Sea disciplines outside of the annual race.
Their ages range from the early 20s to late 40s. Five live in Whatcom County. Six are moms.
Jensen, 39, has two children – a 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Balancing motherhood, bike racing and full-time work at Western Washington University as an education instructor is hard, but Jensen said racing is an external motivator to stay healthy and keep exercising.
“I feel like I’m a better mom when I’ve been exercising,” she said. “I feel like I’m more patient. And I feel like, when my kids see me racing –especially when my daughter sees me racing – I just feel like it’s good modeling for her, about feeling strong and healthy.”
We feel really strongly that racing provides women a sense of confidence.
The other team members include Avery Shinneman (cross-country ski), Courtney McBean (downhill ski), Claire Wenger (running), Kari Wright (road bike), Char Waller and Kim Reeves (canoe), and Tomiko Johnson (kayak).
Jensen will race cyclocross. In the past, she’s done the road bike leg and also competed in the canoe leg with her husband.
The team, she said, would love to see a mountain bike leg back in the race again, citing the 2015 race, when the skiing legs were cancelled due to lack of snow and the race had to add a new mountain biking leg.
But for now, Jensen said the team’s 2017 goals are simple: have fun, be supportive of each other and continue being strong and happy women.
“I like feeling strong and racing, and feeling that it’s not about what we look like or what the scale says or what the media thinks we (should) look like,” she said. “I think it’s confidence-building.”
Jack’s Bicycle Center team’s Ski to Sea Race Division corrected to Competitive Women’s on May 25, 2017.