Last spring, a group of dedicated cyclists led by Aidan Charles, hosted the Breakaway Benefit at Wesleyan College in Middletown, Connecticut. The benefit launched the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program. On the 22nd of September, CCAP will strike again, with the Connecticut Cycling Festival in downtown Hartford. This event promises to be a great success, with a criterium race, group ride, and expo. I love the fact that CCAP is fighting hard to expose youth to the benefits of cycling and that they are integrating their mission with ongoing revitalization of Hartford.
Connecticut is a great place to grow up riding. I started riding my first two-wheeler when I was three years old. I got my first serious bicycle when I was 12. It was a Shogun 400. My second serious bicycle was a 1986 Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike, which I miss dearly. I was fortunate to pick up a pre-owned Richard Sachs road bike in 1989. My grandfather helped me save to buy a Spectrum Titanium road bike in 1992. I’m fortunate to be part of Team Horst Sports, Team Seven Cycles, HEAT, and so many other great groups that are part of the cycling community. I’ve ridden so many great bicycles over the years. It’s been a love affair ever since I got that first one.
My cycling story is a lot longer than this quick summary. I was influenced by several factors and by many people who were already cyclists. Early on, I did touring and rode a lot with fellow Boy Scouts. In high school, my friend Craig Damaschi, was a cycling nut who had all of the mid-1980’s magazines. Craig had a classic Schwinn Paramount built by the folks in Waterford, Wisconsin. He also had a Schwinn High Sierra mountain bike, which would be worth a few bucks today. When Greg Lemond won the 1986 Tour de France, that was a big deal for me. I was running cross-country, but cycling became my true love.
At the time, mountain biking was emerging as a new kind of riding and I adored it too. I had some early heroes in that sport including Ned Overend and Steve Tilford, who were both Specialized riders. Incidentally, both are still going strong in their late-50’s. That Stumpjumper was a mean machine and I hammered it, but heck, I was a kid. I raced it hard at early NORBA and EFTA events in New England and met a different crowd of competitive cyclists. When I started at Boston University in 1990, I got involved with the cycling team.
By 1991, I was spending all of my free time on bicycles. I’ve been everywhere on my bicycles. I’ve raced all over the world. I spent the summer of 1994 racing the kermesse circuit in Belgium. I can’t believe that 2014 will mark 20 years since that summer. Teammates Jon Gallagher, Peter Brennan, and I saw the ’94 Tour de France finish on the Champs Elysee. Frankie Andreu was in a breakaway and came 2nd on the day. Who would have thought that Le Tour would be facing so much trouble in the years to come. I made great friends on the Boston University and Boston College Cycling Teams. Thanks to Facebook, I stay in touch with Roger Nauth, Mark Johnson, Dave Fee, Laura Summers, and others.
In 1997, Arlen Zane Wenzel and I launched the Horst Engineering Cycling Team with a group of friends. Arthur Roti, Randall Dutton, and other are part of my inner cycling circle. 15 years later, we still love to ride and the team is still together today. The group has changed. Riders have come and gone, but those friendships are lasting, and bikes were our connection. Zane was one of Aidan Charles’ early mentors and in a role reversal, Aidan coaches Zane today. It was cool to watch Aidan speak at the benefit and share his own passion for cycling.
Mountain biking, road cycling, cyclocross, duathlon, adventure racing, triathlon…you name it. I’ve done more than 500 races involving a bicycle. I met Debbie at the 1999 Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run, thanks to the bicycle. Now, we enjoy riding with our children.
So, why my story?
It all came back to me as I was sitting there at the benefit dinner back in March and listening to the stories of others and how their lives have changed because of the bicycle. Stories of redemption. Stories of overcoming substance abuse. Stories of getting healthy again. Stories of glory.
Come to Hartford and experience our community’s passion for cycling. The Connecticut Cycling Festival is right around the corner.