Photo courtesy Ethan A. Glading Photography
It's unusual for a conversation about local road or track racing to take place without the name Daphne Karagianis popping up.
Karagianis is one of the most decorated Chicago-based racers currently active, and with each passing year, she leaves an increasingly devastating path of destruction, while simultaneously being incredibly nice, humble, and eager to represent women's cycling in a positive light.
Having ridden alongside Karagianis on a group training ride and in a computrainer studio, we can personally attest she is ridiculously strong and fast by any standard, and helps prove beyond a doubt that women's bike racing deserves a lot more respect than it seems to get sometimes. If you don't believe us, try holding her wheel in a sprint (assuming you can hang on long enough to even get to the sprint). In other words, Karagianis' ability to crush dreams does not discriminate by gender.
Photo courtesy Alex Wallbaum
According to Karagianis, she's had a lifelong passion for cycling, and discovered her talent for speed while navigating the streets of Chicago. Shortly thereafter, she met the members of the Chicago Cuttin Crew, a local team comprised primarily of bike messengers. Soon she was competing at the Northbrook and Kenosha velodromes, and her love for bike racing grew.
Over the last five seasons, honing her skills on the road and at the velodrome, Daphne has amassed a palmares that includes:
Karagianis' success on the local, state, and regional level has also afforded her opportunities to compete alongside pro riders at Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) races across the country.
The CWEC works to help provide opportunities for talented women racers in the area. This year, the CWEC is hosting the Women's Midwest Road Race Championship for the first time. They started a Go Fund Me to help cover operational costs: https://www.gofundme.com/raisetheroad/
Members of Chicago Women's Elite Cycling (photo courtesy SnowyMountain Photography)
The Chainlink recently caught up with Karagianis to learn what she loves about riding.
CL: How did you get started riding?
DK: I’ve always been riding! That’s the most special thing about the bike—it is part of most of our lives growing up.
CL: What inspires you to get on your bike?
DK: I’m constantly inspired and in awe of the women I race with—athletes, Olympians, national champions, moms, teenagers, doctors—and their strength on and off the bike. Women’s cycling is so exciting because there are so many strong competitors.
I’m inspired to keep riding because I know what it feels like to put in hard work on the bike and see it’s rewards. I want to test my limits and see my potential.
CL: Favorite famous cyclist and why?
DK: Marianne Vos, of course. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with her and she is truly exceptional. Her passion for growing the sport for women and creating a level playing field is making a big difference for the women's peloton.
CL: Any advice for bike newbs?
CL: Zen biking - What’s your go-to (or secret) spot you like to bike?
DK: If I had my choice I’d be back in many of the beautiful places I’ve raced (Mt. Diablo, Mt. Lemmon, Gila National Forrest, Mt. Mitchell, The Green Mountains, Estes Park, Cloudburst Summit, Somewhere in France..) except not racing and just cruising along to see the sights!
In Chicago the LFP in the early hours of the morning is super zen. I also really enjoy the North Branch Trail up to the Botanical Gardens—you’ll always see a family or two of deer right up on the trail. I also find solace in the woods, on the skis, up at Kettle Moraine in the winter.
CL: What’s on your “bike bucket list”? e.g. dream ride location, race, etc.
CL: Favorite places to bike to for a snack, drinks, coffee, or food (please include location)
CL: Favorite bike-related events
DK: The Women's Midwest Road Race Championship will be the event of the summer! Chicago Women's Elite Cycling has launched a campaign to raise the road for women's cycling events and show our strength in numbers. We've been hard at work organizing the event and I couldn't be more proud of the Chicago women's cycling community—everyone's efforts are incredibly inspiring. Please check out the race and join us!
CL: How many bikes do you currently own?
DK: Complete bikes?.. 4! :)
CL: What’s your favorite bike?
DK: I really enjoy riding my Trek Silque. It is an endurance bike made for long rides and I really enjoy the comfort it provides after a long week of racing.
Visit the CWEC website to learn more about the Chicago Women's Elite Cycling program.
Donate to Raise the Road on their Go Fund Me page.
Register for the Women's Midwest Road Race Championship
Volunteer your time to CWEC.