Thanks to sponsorship by Outdoor Sports Center in Wilton, young people across Fairfield County now have access to the sport of bicycle racing with the Fairfield County Youth Cycling Team.
Developed by the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP) with help from coaches Monika Stokes and Clare Zecher, the team has weekly practices on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 at Cranbury Park in Norwalk and will participate in mountain, road and cyclocross races.
Each discipline corresponds with an athletic season. During the fall, beginning this month and running through November, the team will train for cyclocross and compete in eight races, all in Connecticut.
Cyclocross is a form of bicycle racing that involves riders dismounting and remounting to avoid obstacles on foot while navigating different types of terrain on mountain bikes.
Riders of all levels between the ages of nine and 18 are invited to join. There are at present eight members registered with four spots left to be filled.
The cost to join is $299, which covers the weekly practices and includes a team jersey as well as a USA Cycling (USAC) junior racing license.
Racing, however, is completely optional.
“On a race weekend, you have the option to race,” said Stokes, “but if you don’t want to, you can come just to cheer, to watch and get a feel for racing, or you can take the weekend off. It’s up to you.”
On weekends when there are no scheduled races, the team logs another day of practice on Saturday, at the same time and place they meet on Wednesdays.
Stokes and Zecher teach bike handling skills, riding positioning, proper braking, climbing, descending, cornering (or the efficient navigating of curves), starting strategy and adequate nutrition.
“Cycling is pretty complex,” said Stokes. “It teaches real life responsibility, teamwork, safety and nutrition. It’s a good foundation for them as human beings.”
The next race is the Mansfield Hollow on Oct. 10 in Mansfield.

Outdoor Sports Center


As the team’s sponsor, Outdoor Sports Center will help to cover the cost of racing fees as well as to recruit more members.
There is a posting on the store bulletin board and the team is mentioned in the weekly newsletter. According to Stokes, one of the team’s members called from the store to sign up.
In addition to incurring costs and recruiting, Outdoor Sports Center designed the logo and jersey for the team and other promotional materials, like the team banner that will be hung during practices and at races.
Wiltonian Will Maxwell with Outdoor Sports Center said his business saw the proposed cycling team as a great alternative sport for the local youth.
“This offers local kids that aren’t interested in traditional team sports an opportunity to get involved with something athletic,” said Maxwell. “We got involved to foster that environment, to give kids another option. Around here there are super-competitive sports programs, but some kids don’t fit in with lacrosse or soccer.”
Outdoor Sports Center is family owned and operated. It started out as the Ski Hut in Wilton Center more than 50 years ago and was rebranded in 1983 by the sons of the founders and moved to 80 Danbury Road.

CCAP


The CCAP was founded in 2013 by professional cyclist Aidan Charles, who now is the program’s executive director.
Its mission is “to create a system for youth development through the sport of cycling. It’s about creating a cohesive program where everyone in the state of Connecticut can share common goals,” says the CCAP website.
According to Karen Franzen with the CCAP, who is the program director of the Fairfield County Youth Cycling Team, the CCAP is hard at work developing a cycling circuit within the state and is actively reaching out to local areas in an effort to start more teams.

Information


Parents of interested riders may register their children by navigating to CtCyclingAdvancement.org/join-a-team/ and clicking on The Fairfield County Youth Team (CX).
Those who may want to join but are not yet sure may watch the team’s practices. The coaches will remain afterwards to field questions.
For more information, stop by Outdoor Sports Center or email Franzen directly at Karen@CtCyclingAdvancement.com.
Riders should have a mountain bike or a cyclocross-specific racing bike and are required to wear helmets.
The team is co-ed.