Almost 200 cyclists gathered at Fairfield Hills on a bright clear Saturday, December 21, to take part in the first Newtown Cyclocross, a cross-country bicycling competition held in the late months of the year that challenged participants to ride across a range of terrain — pavement and turf, snow and mud.
Newtown Cyclocross was a joint project of the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP) and Team 26. The event raised funds for both groups.
CCAP is a Middletown-based private, nonprofit group that seeks a create a support system for youth development in the sport of cycling. Team 26 is a group of 26 cyclists who promote gun control in the wake of the 12/14 shooting incident at Sandy Hook School.
Newtown Cyclocross registration took place at Newtown Youth Academy at Fairfield Hills.
Cyclists at the daylong event raced on a challenging 1.75-mile course that included asphalt, snow, turf, and mud, as well as sets of wooden barriers. The varied terrain of a cyclocross course is intended to test the mettle of cyclists, occasionally requiring them to lift up and carry their bikes across terrain that is unrideable.
Hunter Pronovost, the marketing director for CCAP, said that cyclists participated in seven races during the event.
“You have to be a skilled bike rider to finish well,” he observed, noting the physical challenges posed by the competition. The tough terrain over which cyclists ride makes the event fun for participants, he said.
Newtown resident Monte Frank, who is an attorney for the Town of Newtown, an avid cyclist, and a member of Team 26, worked in setting up the course for the event, Mr Pronovost said. The circuit included long rides across the sloped High Meadow, as well as passes through densely wooded areas.
The December 21 event was the first time that CCAP has sponsored a cyclocross event and the first time that the group held a cycling event in Newtown, Mr Pronovost said.
The rigors of cyclocross racing serve to keep cyclists motivated to compete, he said. Part of the sport’s attraction is encountering sections of a course that are unrideable and which require the racers to lift up their bikes and carry them, he said.
“The race was by far an overwhelming success. We received lots of positive feedback. I think we’ll definitely try to come back,” he said.
David Hoyle, the events director for CCAP, said that the event was a “huge success.”
“The course was fantastic. It was muddy, snowy, and sloppy and that made the course fun and … technical,” Mr Hoyle said.
Mr Hoyle said CCAP plans to return to Newtown for another cycling event.
“Everything about Newtown is great for this cyclocross race … There is very strong community and town support. The Newtown Youth Academy has a unique focus on youth sports,” he added.