The members of the No Women Left Behind cycling group don't mind if you call them ladies or gals or girls. Ultimately, they say, they're just a bad-ass bunch of cyclists.
Organized in 2006 as a way to get a group of like-minded females together who were looking to improve their fitness on the bike, No Women Left Behind (NWLB) has evolved into a tightly knit group of riders.
Cycle hooked up with these ladies sporting their highly recognizable pink, white and black kits as they participated in the recent Toys for Tots ride in North Scottsdale.
"We have girls who get together all through the week to grab a coffee or go out to eat, and they just met a week or two earlier on one of the rides," says NWLB organizer Christina Catalano. "I love riding with this group because I know how we will ride together and we feel strong and secure. I love it!"
The idea behind the group is that women of any age and ability level can join in for a group ride and know that they will not be dropped. This makes for a very happy and social group riding dynamic that has led to strong off-the-bike friendships.
But make no mistake, this is not a bunch of man-hating females rolling down the road. These ladies just enjoy spending some of their girl time in the saddle while not having to worry about any testosterone-fueled doofus trying to impress.
A key to this group is keeping a sense of humor and making each ride fun.
"Let's face it, a lot of the guys who ride are not the funniest people around while they're in the saddle," says Catalano. "They can get kind of hard core."
The group has eight standard routes that start from the Paradise Bakery in Gainey Village and head out in all directions around the Valley, to Tempe, North Scottsdale, Arcadia, and Deer Valley. Each ride lasts 30 to 40 miles (start times vary depending on the time of year) and generally rolls with 20 or so riders.
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"We go out with two to three groups - A group for the faster riders, B group average, and, if we need it, a C group for riders who are just starting out and not that comfortable yet," says Catalano. "I always sweep the B group so we pick up every rider who starts out with us."
While many of the group members are training for a race of some type -- many, including Catalano, are triathletes -- all have joined out of the love of riding a bike and to keep up fitness. But they do focus around the Tri for the Cure, an all-women's triathlon in March.
If you are interested in joining up with NWLB, contact Christina at email@example.com.