Women Bike PHL is the Bicycle Coalition’s program to get more women riding bikes and build community among those who do. Women Bike PHL Development (DEVO) team is Women Bike PHL’s racing arm! Last weekend, the team participated in their first races of the season. New team member Linda Wolfe shares her experience below! You can follow the Women Bike PHL DEVO team’s adventures on Instagram at @wbphlracing.
Compete in three events in one weekend after training for only two weeks? “No problem!” is not what I was thinking when I first glanced over our Women Bike PHL Devo team training and racing schedule.
As an every day bike commuter who occasionally goes on long distance rides for fun, getting on the bike for long training sessions was not an issue. As a barista, getting on the bike at 6:30am was also not an issue. Weaving in and out of traffic in Center City during rush hour, while unpredictable, is still fun and not an issue. The thought of riding competitively in a tight pack of other cyclists all moving very fast around tight corners? Terrifying.
But in two short weeks together under the exceptional guidance of Elisabeth Reinkordt and Michelle Lee, the Devo team and I have learned to ride in a paceline, how to signal properly, how to climb, descend, and corner. On Tuesday mornings we rode laps and sprinted while on Saturdays we rode out into the suburbs for miles. Before I knew it, myself and 13 other Devo teammates found ourselves kitted up and ready for the Philly Phlyer weekend.
When I woke up that Saturday morning on race day, I felt confident in my handling skills for the road race but I still felt that familiar feeling of butterflies as soon as we lined up at the start. I knew it would be difficult but nothing could have prepared me for racing, especially in thirty-degree weather. The cold air burned my lungs, the wind stung my cheeks, and my thighs felt like they were on fire just looking at the next hill and thinking about how I would see it again on the next lap. My heart sank as I watched the peloton slip away after the first lap. I tried desperately to catch up but I was already spent from the team time trial that preceded the road race. So there I was, caught in no women’s land between groups.
As a professional dancer, I’m used to working alone. When I’m in the studio, I’m focused on myself and there is no team. Just you and the mirrors. So when I was stuck by myself during the second lap, I was disheartened but knew I could keep trucking along. But I had no idea how incredible it would feel to come across my teammates.
These women are the strongest, most supportive women I have ever come across on bikes and in life. When one teammate told me to grab her wheel, I was so grateful.
When I sprinted up a hill past another teammate who despises climbing, I yelled to her, “You can do it because you love climbing SO MUCH” and I got a smile out of her. The camaraderie we shared as we took over the field, driving each other to ride faster, push harder, and to not give in to the pain was actually awe inspiring. Hearing Michelle, Elisabeth, and the other Devo mentors yelling out our names on the sidelines gave us all an inconceivable boost of energy.
I arrived home half-frozen, starving and exhausted. I almost immediately found myself in tears as looked over the results online to find that I placed somewhere right around the middle. I cried not because I felt defeated but because I had just finished one of the hardest things I had ever done. My legs screamed at me to sit down but I felt so invigorated by the women I have been surrounded by for the last few weeks.
Their encouragement, drive and determination is something that cannot be matched. Each woman brings something valuable to the team which I am so excited to keep discovering as we continue to practice. I am so unbelievably proud of each of my teammates and amazed at the power of just being a team.
At every race I have watched over the years, I have always felt the itch thinking to myself, “There should be more women out there racing…I could be one of them.” Now I am and trust me, you can too.
And because of Michelle, Elisabeth, and the rest of my Devo team…three races in one weekend? Bring it on.