Interview with Dorothy Wong: Growing Women’s Cycling and Women’s Cyclocross

Dorothy Wong DTLA Cyclocross

I first remember meeting the energetic and friendly Dorothy Wong in 1996 on the Montrose Ride when she mainly raced mountain bikes and enjoyed racing with her a few years later on the road.  She started racing CX in 1997 before CX was cool and began promoting cyclocross events and growing the sport in 2004. Dorothy created the SoCalCross Prestige Series in 2006-2007, which has seen a huge growth in the women’s field of 300 %. Today, Dorothy is SoCal’s undisputed Queen of Cross. A one woman army, Dorothy also heads up the Women’s Cycling Challenge whose goal is to encourage more female cyclists to participate in racing events and welcomes beginner cyclists into the sport. Dorothy shares with us her love of cyclocross and how more women are embracing the sport of CX.  Dorothy, tell us about how you got into racing CX?

Dorothy Wong:  A FRIEND OF MINE SAID… TRY IT, YOU’LL LIKE IT!… I did.  13 years ago. I loved being competitive.  I loved racing bikes 24/7.  The dynamics of cross are fascinating and nothing is more exciting than going full steam ahead at a 40cm wooden barrier and gliding right over it!!!

With MTB and road seasons over, cyclocross was a way for me to stay in shape and literally ‘cross train’… running, core strength, bike handling and lots of socializing!!!  Then you could get “serious”.  I will never forget racing the Super Cup in San Jose and jumping off from the start with 40 other women racing ‘cross.  I was one of the few women who raced CX in the early days.  Sometimes I raced with the guys if no women showed.  But usually there were a  few die-hard 3-4 women who raced each week.  

Also I was working 15-20 hours in TV during the fall which allowed little time for training and rest, so CX kept me in shape until the TV season ended for me in March … then I was able to spend more time on the bike on the weekends after CX season ended in January  and I was refreshed to race all year on the mountain bike and road year after year!

Then I got into running clinics, helping build the courses, finding sponsors… the rest is history!  I would like to create more community cycling festivals as part of our race series.  We will return with our Eco-Sportfest 5k CX runs at our last race and our January Cross Fever Series.  We also hosted a bike polo match in Long Beach and a concert and Night Race at Spooky Cross.  In 2010 and beyond, I am planning on taking this promotional energy and support women’s focus cycling events when CX is off-season.  Having tried most of the other cycling discipines, what do you love about Cyclocross over the other disciplines?

Dorothy Wong:  Community – WE, no matter what team ARE SoCalCrossers!  Support… nothing is more gratifying than going to National Championships and cheering on your fellow SoCalCrossers, hanging out, going out to dinner, sharing the efforts of getting there.   The season is short, but your efforts from are long lasting.  

I especially liked the road tactics and the MTB skills to handle the bike in loose conditions, though I’d have to say CX is its own skills which translate to ALL cycling disciplines and ALL cycling disciplines have skills to help your CX!  A race can be decided on the last lap… a crash or flat can take you out, but usually you get right back up and keep going.  Mainly with pride being bruised.

The race is short enough and the locations of the events are close enough that you can get home and still do things.  And often you go out to eat dinner with your friends and talk about the dynamics of the race, the course, the bike… blah, blah more excuses for bike talk.

My most gratifying aspect of the sport and my support of it is seeing young crossers who start because their parents do it and are barely tall enough to get over the barriers or stong enough to push the bike up a hillside and then see them grow into elite cyclists is most AMAZING to me!!! What do you attribute the growth of women in cyclocross to?

Dorothy Wong: WELL, COMMUNITY OF WOMEN (Celo Pacific growing their women’s number and have hopefully been inspired by me and our women’s numbers on our team), EDUCATION (women’s specific clinics), AWARENESS OF THE SPORT (cyclocross has grown and the Prestige Series marketing structure has created a calendar people can plan the season on)  CYCLOCROSS IS CHALLENGING, BUT NOT INTIMIDATING (fall on grass, go as fast as you want, no pressure).  Cyclocross is FAMILY, (mothers kids and dad all can race and hang out in the park!) BOYS BRING THEIR WOMEN and when they see other ladies racing and having fun, they try it too!  Where  do you see new women riders coming from in the different cycling disciplines (road racing, recreational riding, mountain biking, track, triathlon)?

Dorothy Wong: ALL OF THE ABOVE… but all with the mindset to try something new.  Tell us about the addition of the masters women’s category and the response from the masters women.

Dorothy Wong:  The median age of women cycling is 35-44.  Therefore masters, experienced masters racers who fall out of their prime (usually over 50) want to find a competitive place to race… and want to do well.  Our masters women’s field is a blend of these two ladies groups… a competitive, less intimidating place to race! Last season the 35+ masters women’s series title was decided on the last race.  And the women were over 50!  Are you seeing some cross over from the outreach and clinics you have held with the Women’s Cycling Challenge?

Dorothy Wong:  Yes!!!!  A full summer of growing the women’s cycling community at road events and through our Facebook Group has created women coming together to make things happen is a HUGE part of our growth!  Velo Bella – San Diego asked for my help to host a clinic.  They did all the work to recruit and support along which what the Prestige Series could offer made for a very special day.  Women came all the way from Arizona to learn about the sport!  Ellsworth and Focus Bikes came to show off their CX rigs, which was much needed as all the demo bikes were used that day! What do the guys think about the growth? (It must be nice to see more ladies in lycra out there. : ) )

Dorothy Wong: Yes, they can bring their significant others to the race and not have them bored.  Some women even love taking photos.  The environment is fun, relaxing and lots of time to hang out, chat and meet new friends. How else is SoCalCross catering to the growth on the women’s side?

Dorothy Wong:  Our women’s CX scene (mainly masters and 3/4 women… as the sport is still so new here, ladies don’t consider themselves elite… yet) has doubled (at least) this season.  The largest segment of growth for our series!  We made a change to the schedule to include ALL women in the elite race wave to allow women a second opportunity to race!  Thanks for your time Dorothy! Good luck at CX Nationals this week in Bend, OR!

Interview by Christy Nicholson,

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