South Elgin teen cyclist wins state championships

  • Jessi Prinner, 15, of South Elgin, has won numerous races and hopes to become a professional bike racer.

      Jessi Prinner, 15, of South Elgin, has won numerous races and hopes to become a professional bike racer. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Published8/19/2008 12:09 AM

At age 15, not many girls in the Midwest are even aware of bicycle racing as a sport they can participate in, let alone competing against and beating women twice their age.

Jessi Prinner from South Elgin is certainly not like most girls her age.


If you've been reading my column over the past few years, you may remember her numerous podium finishes at the U.S. junior national cycling championships each of the years she's been racing. It should come as no surprise to you that she has won four state championships this summer. Earlier this month at the Junior National Road Championships in southern California, Jessi won a silver medal in the criterium, and a bronze in the individual time trial.

What might surprise you is that last month, in her fourth year in the sport, Jessi went after the Women's category 3/4 overall championship in the International Cycling Classic "SuperWeek" races.

Consisting of seven Illinois and Wisconsin races taking place in an eight-day span, the logistics of simply participating in this series is a huge challenge. To prepare, Jessi entered a few professional women's races in the days before her events began. She was awed by the abilities of these ladies, but not necessarily intimidated.

In her online rider report, she describes that "one time I even attacked and gained a considerable margin on the field, out by myself on a solo breakaway for two laps. I probably could have held it to the finish line if there hadn't been 48 laps left in the race!"

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The suspense is probably killing you so I'll cut to the chase. In the seven category 3/4 races, against women much older and more experienced than her, Jessi finished first twice, third three times, fifth and 13th once.

In her own words, "After a long and vigorous week of racing, I was glad when I could finally get on stage and claim my yellow leader's jersey that I worked so hard for. Despite what anyone might say, riding in circles for 11 days straight is more exhausting than it seems, and I'm proud to be able to say that my yellow jersey is living proof that I rode in circles the fastest."

In addition to her cycling prowess, Jessi is a captivating writer. Check out her entertaining rider reports for yourself at her team's web site:

Also online: It's time for my annual plug for a wonderful cycling resource, This site was originally designed by Belvidere, Ill., resident Sean Lantz as a place for him and a friend to keep a ride journal online (including logging trip distance, speed, and heart rate information), but that just scratches the surface.


If you choose to, as a member you can compare your riding mileages with other cyclists around the country, participate in discussion forums, and peruse a growing database of local rides and trails. The site has grown from 25 members at the beginning of 2003 to more than 30,000 now.

As an avid member of for over five years, I can attest to the motivational power of logging in after each ride to watch my ranking climb.

Todd Underwood covers cycling in the Chicago area. To contact him, e-mail


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