Weeks after her father’s death, Colorado cyclist wins junior nationals

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Photo: Kirsten Williams velodrome race bikeThis summer, 18-year-old track cyclist Kirsten Williams will be part of the United States' team at the Juniors Track World Championships in Seoul, South Korea. When she's there, she'll be representing more than her country and her home state, Colorado.

Williams will also ride for her father, Victor Williams, who died in June from injuries suffered in an accident in Colorado Springs at the velodrome, an oval-shaped wooden bicycle racing track.

Kirsten Williams was riding in the velodrome that day at the same time as her father and narrowly avoided the crash herself.

Then just last weekend, Kirsten Williams won a U.S. competition to earn a chance to compete in Korea.

"It’s like every time I go around that corner I feel like he’s cheering for me," Williams says about her father.

Her father got her into the sport of bike racing. The first time she competed was on a tandem bike with him. Her nickname in the cycling community is "Junior."

Williams says she has even modeled her riding style after him. Last weekend she won the omnium, a grueling competition combining six events over multiple days. One of the events, an endurance race, was her dad’s favorite event. He had told her to be aggressive, and so she was, lapping the field at one point.

"I was really inspired to just race my heart out, like he always did," she says.

During the race Williams sported an arm band made out of her dad's jersey, something a friend made for her.

"After I finished the race I did a strong arm thing," she says, flexing her bicep to show where the arm band was during the race. "Just to show people it was him."

Williams says riding also helps her deal with the traumatic few weeks she's had.