It was the worst thirty minutes of senior Kristen Bignal’s life.
The agony of defeat was setting in for Bignal, and she was barely able to breathe. Riding for Delta Gamma, she had just been beaten in a sprint to the Little 500 crown by Phoenix’s then-senior Tabitha Sherwood by a razor-thin margin of 0.051 seconds.
Not only had she lost the race, but her sister sophomore Laurie Bignal recalls that she was on the verge of passing out.
Instead of being drowned in disappointment, Kristen has used that loss as the ultimate fuel.
“I don’t really think there’s been a day where I haven’t really thought about Little 500 and my goal for this year,” Kristen said. “That last lap from last year has been in the back of my mind all the time when I’m training. I constantly think about it.”
Using last year as motivation, Kristen also will be riding with her sister, who is making her Little 500 debut as a sophomore. Laurie trained with the team last year, but she did not ride with the team in the actual race.
“Riding with my sister definitely has been a unique experience,” Kristen said. “It’s been hard balancing being an older sister with being a team captain and a leader for her on this team. But it has been so much fun watching her grow as a rider.”
The two sisters have always been close.
Both played soccer growing up and neither had any competitive riding experience before coming to IU.
Kristen joined the Delta Gamma cycling team her freshman year, and Laurie followed in her sister’s footsteps when she arrived to Bloomington.
Laurie said it’s fun riding with her sister, but said she also has learned a great work ethic from Kristen.
“We’ve always been close and riding with her really pushes me,” Laurie said. “Watching her and how well she does in all the events really inspires me to try my hardest every time I’m out on the track.”
Kristen is someone Laurie said she can turn to talk to about anything and everything. But just because they’re sisters doesn’t mean Kristen goes easy on her younger sibling.
“I never get special treatment,” Laurie said. “There will be times where I necessarily don’t want to do something or I’m not doing my best, and she’ll push me just as hard as she’ll push anyone else.”
Their teammates see the sisters’ togetherness on a daily basis.
“They’re very similar, very, very similar,” senior teammate Sarah Rivich said. “They eat the same, they talk the same, their mannerisms are exactly the same. It’s just they have different hair color. They are two peas in a pod.”
There’s one other area where they differ.
“We definitely have different personalities, and when we get in competitive mindsets like we do in Little 500 sometimes we butt heads a little bit,” Kristen said.
The end is near for the duo’s time riding together for Delta Gamma.
The race will be a family affair for the Bignals, and Laurie said she is thrilled to be riding alongside her sister as a way for Kristen to finish off her senior year at IU and final year in the Little 500.
“I’m just very excited and I just can’t wait for the race,” Kristen said. “I know the second the race ends, I’ll be so sad. Even if we win, I’ll be crying tears of joy and sadness because this is my last race.”
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