One of my goals this season was to race a crit. I chose Downers Grove because I’ve watched Bob and various teammates and friends race there and because it always draws a big crowd.

On race day I warmed up on the course while my cheering section (Bob and Bobby) headed off to the start/finish line. The majority of turns weren’t too bad, but seven would be pretty tight, as would eight heading into the finish. I was nervous.

I got to the start a bit late and ended up in the back. There were 34 riders including myself. I thought about the tips Bob had given me on the drive over—Hold your line in the corners…turn 7 is tight…you should feel like you can’t do another lap at the end. Ok, sounds easy enough.

And then we were off. I tried to pass some riders along the outside before the first turn. Unfortunately that didn’t work very well because everyone else around me was doing the same thing. So I fell in line and it was all out to the hill, at which point the pace quickened. I started counting riders ahead of me. Ten, eleven, fifteen, ugh. I wondered if the pace would settle down any time soon.

The long downhill to the figure eight was crazy fast with everyone jockeying for position. A couple riders passed me. I passed a couple back. When we got to turn seven there was a lot of braking but everyone made it safely through the turn. Turn eight to the start/finish line was uneventful, though the pace was getting faster.

The second lap was more of the same, but toward the end of the lap a small group of us fell off the pace. And even though we went into the third lap hard there was no way we were going to bridge up. For the first time in a bike race ever, I thought I might throw up.

At some point the second group I was in split apart and for the remainder of the 25 minutes I tried to work with a couple riders from Spidermonkey and KCOI/Boulevard. Eventually it would come down to the Spidermonkey rider and me. I sprinted to the line and managed to hold her off for 21st place.

We went back on Sunday to watch the men’s pro race. Unfortunately there were some crashes due to the rainy/wet course, but it was still really awesome to see how the pros do it. They make it look so easy.

Guess I’m hooked. I’ll be back next year!

-Kristina Meinig