LANCASTER -- It's been quite a ride for Kayla Starr -- literally.
As a child, the Lancaster resident was afraid of bicycle riding because of a bad crash she once had. But she kept riding, and USA Cycling now considers the 19-year-old one of the top amateur bicycle racers in the country. She is ranked No. 3 in Ohio in her category.
"I'm surprised and still in shock over this," Starr said. "I still see myself as an 11-year-old kid riding my bike at 8 mph."
In three 40- to 50-mile road races this year, Starr finished first at Germantown, second at Vandervorts Corner and third at Lynchburg for the Cyclist Connection of Canal Winchester. She also works at that cycling store and races a Felt AR3 bicycle.
"She's had a good season so far and opened up some eyes," cycling coach Todd Lee said. "Her determination is the biggest thing. She's a fighter who doesn't give up."
On Wednesday, Starr will be riding in a criterium at London, Ohio. A criterium is a race on a closed course instead of a long road course.
"Racing is something I enjoy doing," Starr said. "I'm doing it to have fun. I don't have an ego or anything with it. Once you get the big head, it's no fun anymore. I like to have fun with this and I enjoy going fast. It's a neat adventure, for sure."
Top speed for female racers is about 20 mph.
USA Cycling has four categories for amateurs, with Category 1 being the top one. Starr is in her rookie year, so she is in Category 4.
Starr said Lee is a major reason for her success.
"He always tells me you only have $1 to spend when you're in a race," Starr said. "So you have to spend it wisely. You can't start out too fast and spend your dollar at the start of the race."
Lee said a successful amateur like Starr needs to ride about 200 to 300 miles per week. He said professional bicycle racers ride between 500 and 1,000 miles each week.
Of course, people don't have to race like Starr or rack up tremendous mileage to enjoy bicycle riding.
Starr recommends cycling for anyone who wants to get some exercise, although she does offer a strong warning.
"Wear a helmet," she said. "In 2007, a helmet saved my life. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to wear one."
As for Starr, she's not ruling out racing professionally one day.
"We all need to have goals, and that would be really, really cool if that's where life takes me," she said.
In the meantime, Starr said she wants to keep racing as an amateur and help raise money for various charities, such as autism awareness.
Starr also said she might ride in the Tour de Cause on July 16. That is a local ride that raises money to fight drug addiction.