Willow Garcia's first cycling race at the Mojo's Spring Fling Criterium Cycling Series seemed like an out-of-this-world event.
"It felt like a spaceship," said the 10-year-old Garcia of her inaugural three-lap ride around Clinton Lake's .75-mile course.
"But it was a lot of fun," Garcia said smiling, while trying to get her hands to stop shaking.
And to event coordinator Jim Whittaker, fun is what cycling is supposed to be about.
"I think it's really cool to get new racers," said Whittaker, who not only races for the Lawrence-Kansas City area-based Team X, but also coaches riders, coordinates races, serves as a mechanic and award presenter and emcees the entire day via microphone while music plays through loudspeakers.
"It's really neat to see the younger kids, because they are very appreciative and eager to learn the sport," said Whittaker, who provides free racing for youths ages 8-15.
While Garcia was competing for the first time, Lawrence's Garrick Valverde finished in the top four of the age group.
"It's good when we get new people," said the 12-year-old Valverde, who began his cycling career last year. "It makes it more fun when there's more competition."
Whittaker says out of the dozen or so youth participants, many joined the sport because of their parents.
"I would say most of them did, but in a couple of situations the kids got their parents interested," Whittaker said.
While the day proved to be challenging for Garcia, she said it was a lot of fun.
"Yeah, I really liked it because my legs went round and round and round," Garcia said.
Plus she got to try out her Trek mountain bike, which she saved for all last year.
"She asked about every one of our neighbors if she could help them with yard work," said Garcia's mother, Rachel Dobbs.
Garcia also is an avid long-distance runner.
"And a good one, too," Dobbs said.
More than likely, Garcia will be traveling next weekend on rubber wheels instead of rubber soles.
"Yeah, I liked it and will do it again," Garcia said, but quickly needed a reminder about next weekend's other out-of-this-world event.
"Oh, yeah, I'm not sure because it's my birthday," she said with a grin.
The Spring Fling will conclude with its final race April 5 at Clinton Lake. But cycling enthusiasts need not worry about a shortage of events.
The Perry-Roubaix -- an on-and-off road event that mimics a famous French race of a similar name -- will be held April 11-13 at Perry Lake. The following weekend will offer the Bunny Bash at Clinton Lake.