OPUS – It wasn’t my very first race like it is for many. It took a few weeks of cajoling from my new-found friends and mentors, and a couple trips out to Minnetonka to watch, before I worked up the nerve to throw my hat in the ring. When I finally stood on the starting line for the first time, Mike Delaney looked on in horror as I clipped in my lace-up Adidas Minretts. Mike came over and duct taped my shoelaces to my shoes so they wouldn’t get caught in my chainrings. I had never even considered that possibility.
What I remember: I was only in the race for a couple of laps, people kept yelling “WORK TOGETHER” at me and the other woman who’d been dropped early. I didn’t really know what that meant. I had already learned that I didn’t like the feeling of DNF, so I slugged it out by myself up and down the hill for another six laps. This scenario repeated itself almost exactly the following week.
Fast forward a year and I was recovering from an ACL reconstruction and meniscus repair. I’d put on my blue shirt and USA Cycling pin for the second time and driven out to the race course. I stood near the top of the grassy hill and dutifully wrote down bib numbers as Jim Cullen taught me how to keep track of the points. A few weeks later, standing on the hill writing numbers down as they flew by got easier as I managed to put more weight on my recovering leg. By the end of the series, I was able to ride my bike all the way to OPUS and back. And I did, just to eat hamburgers and watch the races.
Another year passed, and on Tuesday I lined up at OPUS for the 3rd time. 14 other category 4 women joined me, and in front of us, 11 category 1s, 2s, and 3s. They (mercifully, if you ask me) start the Cat 4’s 45 seconds after the 1/2/3’s. If we had all raced together, it would have been the 2nd biggest field I’ve ever been in. Even without the 1/2/3s, it was 2-3 times as many women as I’ve been racing with in the North Central Collegiate Cycling Conference for the last few weeks, and the buffer effect of sheer volume is positively indescribable. I didn’t win, or get any upgrade points, or any regular points — I ended up just barely in the top half of the cat 4s. For 22 glorious minutes I zipped around the course with my peers, weighing the risks of each move, and fighting over the top of the hill each lap. There were people near me, giving every ounce of their effort. If you’ve never raced in a field of 4 or 6, that might just sound like bike racing to you — but to me, my third time at OPUS was the charm. I can’t wait to do it again!