A national champ

The first time Jennifer Bodine rode a bike, it got the best of her and she broke her 5-year-old leg. Decades later, the GW first-year graduate student is showing the bike who is boss.

In May, Bodine won a major race at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in Lawrence, Kan., in thrilling fashion.

With half a lap remaining in the 20-mile race, Bodine decided to take a calculated risk by “attacking,” or attempting to break away from the other racers. If she was not able to maintain the surge to the finish line, she would likely end up even farther behind than she already was. Bodine’s charge paid off, as she took and then maintained a lead until she crossed the finish line with a time of one hour, three minutes and 30 seconds, best in the field of 36.

“At that moment when I decided to attack it was really just a split-second decision, and I actually didn’t know whether I was going to win until I crossed the finish line,” Bodine said.

“I never think about if I’m going to win a race until the last lap because up until then it doesn’t matter,” she said.

Going into the weekend, Bodine said that her goal was to place in the top four overall, which would qualify her for a collegiate all-star team. After placing seventh in the first road race of the weekend, Bodine’s first-place finish in the criterium race (a relatively short race on a street course) secured her spot on the team.

Beginning June 20 in Saint Paul, Minn., the all-star team will race in the Nature Valley Grand Prix, a five-day race that consists of more than 20 professional women’s teams from the United States and Europe. Bodine and her teammates will be seen by the managers of these professional teams.

“One of the stages is an 86-mile road race, so my goal is to finish all six stages and not get dropped at all, and maybe even take the spot as the highest-ranked amateur during one of the days,” she said.

After cycling intermittently during her undergraduate work at Columbia University, Bodine, who lives in Bethesda, Md., enrolled at GW and joined the cycling team. Bodine was on the cycling team during her junior and senior years at Columbia but never raced.

“Riding for GW’s team was a great opportunity to race on a national level and get my name out there,” she said. “(The victory at Nationals) is my biggest win ever.”

Although it may only be her second year racing competitively, Bodine said that she is hoping to make cycling a career.

“This year I joined a new team and have a new coach, and we raced in some professional races,” she said. “I had some good results, and then after winning Nationals, it sort of became less of a dream and more of a reality that I could really get up there and really be strong.”

Bodine did triathlons for a year after college but decided to drop the running and swimming events because cycling became her main interest.

“The speed of cycling and whipping around corners at 25 miles per hour is scary, but it’s fun and exhilarating all at the same time. I love everything about the bike-that I can fix my own bike and take care of it. It’s exactly like how some people may treat their car.”

While Bodine admitted to not following cycling as a child, she said she fell in love with it from her very first race last year.

“What I love about it is that we go to a million different cities all over the country, and we get to meet so many different people from all over,” she said. “You become friends with them because you see them at all of the different races, and it’s kind of an interesting way to see the country and see different downtown cities.”

Bodine added that the challenging nature of the sport allows her to learn something about herself every race. Still, Bodine said that cycling would not mean as much to her if it were not for the tremendous support she has received from her parents and teammates.

“It wouldn’t be as exciting if you didn’t have a whole bunch of people who came to watch you race and cared about you,” she said. “My parents and the team I’m on now are amazingly supportive, which is really what makes racing fun.”

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