Sunday July 2, 2017 Louisville, Kentucky Chicago Women's Elite Cycling lined up to race the Criterium National Championships and make history as the first women's team from Chicago to ever compete. Back home our friends and supporters cheered us on as they watched on the live stream at BFF Bikes. Our roster included: Rachel Wills, Lauren Wissman, Christine Thornburg, Lily Williams, and Jenny Kosatka. We asked a few riders to recap their very first time racing at the National Championships and their experience with CWEC:
This was my first pro nationals of any kind, and while it wasn't per se very different than any other pro level crit I've done, there was a feeling of import in the air that is both intangible and undeniable. This was the first race I've been in where the race was neutralized and re-started. Staying calm yet still maintaining intensity during those periods was essential. The course was amazing: it had a hill, some fast technical turns, some slow flowy turns, and some long and some short straights. Really a great mixture of elements. My favorite part was a fast downhill, ending in a sharp left turn into a section under an underpass. It felt very apocalyptic, like the racers were the only people left on earth. Each race I feel like myself and the team get better at staying closer to the front of the pack, so I was very proud to see everyone remain safe and out of the crashes, and gain experience at the highest level there is in the U.S. As per usual, it was amazing to be so well taken care of so that we could focus on having fun and staying relaxed on our bikes. Especially with the heat and the crashes, the support staff were essential in allowing us to race at our bests.
This past weekend in Louisville was a truly memorable experience. Having the opportunity to race at a National Championship race and being the first Chicago based team to do so was a real privilege. While the course was technical, the turns were wide and hills were short and punchy. In my opinion, it created opportunities to maneuver within the field more easily than in our past races. There was never a dull moment, and I was thankful this was the course we tackled a 75 min race on. This was easily one of my favorites and I am very appreciative to those who made it possible!
That was so much fun! I'm continually impressed at the professional experience CWEC provides it's riders, race after race! Pro Crit Nats was no exception. Heat was a factor, and knowing how my body reacts, I knew I had do everything to stay cool. From the pre-race ice socks and dipped towels, to the feed zone hand-ups, and neutral support refills, our support staff was on point. Thankful for the opportunity to toe the line with the nations best and thrilled to finish alongside them too!
We were more than excited to welcome Anna Affias to our support crew. She's been crushing it on the road this season as a Category 3, quickly moving up through the ranks. We wanted her to experience professional women's cycling and see what it takes to get a team ready for a national championship. Read her recap and then sign up to volunteer with us in the future!
Getting to support CWEC at Crit Nats was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one I won't soon forget. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement and I am beyond grateful to have been a part of it all. From attaching ice socks to sports bras to staying calm and breathing after a crash, I'm leaving Crit Nats with a plethora of knowledge and excitement for the sport and the team. I was especially blown away at how professional the support crew was and how appreciative the racers were. I feel lucky to have been involved and would highly recommend and encourage others to volunteer at future races. Bonus: handfuls of Swedish fish at your finger tips at all times.