Bike racing can be a difficult sport to get into. One of the largest entrance barriers is the cost. The expense of a bike itself is just the beginning. With travel, entree fees, clothing, parts, and inevitable repairs, things really begin to add up quickly. Unfortunately, the sport can be limited to those who already know about it, and those who can afford it. I was lucky enough to have the incredible support of my family and my teams as I was coming up. My dad introduced me to bike racing, bought my start up gear, and took me for training rides. My mom was the ultimate swanny, chauffeur, mechanic and all around super fan. She even made life-size cut-outs of myself and my teammates. Surely they maxed out some credit cards along the way. Artemis Racing had invited me on after my very first race. There I was introduced to a whole new and supportive community. A couple years later, I joined Team Snow Valley with a coach who taught us how to train, and who traveled with us. Without this early foundation, I would not be a professional today. Now, I think I have a responsibility to do my small part to help the sport grow from the bottom up. Grass Roots Cycling This offseason I will be running a donation drive until Thanksgiving. With the help of some pros and many local bike racers, we've begun stockpiling our own gear to give to junior racers entering the sport. Hopefully with an Hors Categorie mountain of parts, gear, bikes, etc. we can hurdle some of those costly entrance barriers, making it easier for first-timers to get the basics to race. We're asking for donations that will directly benefit the grassroots initiatives already set in place by Mid Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association (MABRA) and Virginia High School Mountain Bike League (VAHSMTB.) If you have extra parts, gear, tires, tubes, chains, pedals, shoes and even bikes, please consider donating. The collection ends on Thanksgiving and distributing before Christmas time. Please Send All Donations to: Grass Roots Cycling Curtis Winsor PO BOX 898 Crozet, VA 22932 Who Does It Benefit? Everything received will be sorted, inspected, and split amongst the MABRA and VAHSMTB grassroots junior programs. In 2012 the National Capitol Velo Club (NCVC) purchased more than 20 youth-sized road bikes. Spearheaded by club president, Greg Abbot, the bikes can be checked out like a library book by ANY junior racer in MABRA which includes Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. MABRA chipped in some funding as well to purchase another 10 bikes. In 2013, every single bike has been checked out by juniors racing in the 10-14 category. When growth spurts kick in (I'm still waiting on mine) the bikes go back to MABRA and are redistributed to other juniors entering the sport. MABRA also has a large storage unit with extra parts locals have donated. NCVC manages the parts and distributes to juniors in need. Junior field sizes are on the rise, thanks to this effort. The VAHSMTB League, which started in 2011, is a six-race spring series in which high school teams compete for team and individual honors for a series title as well as a state championship. Scored similar to cross country, these weekday events are drawing over 100 teenage racers! The series added middle school and elementary categories in 2013. With family-friendly, safe venues, the series is inviting and introduces the sport to a new audience. In its fourth year, the series hopes to continue its growth. I am a coach for a handful of riders for Rocktown Racing based in Harrisonburg , VA and occasionally ride with the Miller School of Albemarle team (whose coaches introduced the series). Though I have zero technical skill, completely incapable of bunny hopping anything over three inches, I truly believe that the high school mountain bike scene is the best way to introduce kids to racing. My high school student body pushed 1,700; I was the only cyclist. Had this program existed then, perhaps there would have been more interest. The Pros Are Giving Back We all started somewhere and typically with some help. It's important to many of us to return the favor in some way. Thankfully with help from a handful of professional riders, many from the Blue Ridge area, the stock pile is already looking good! Two-time Olympian Bobby Lea, Andrea Dvorjak, stage winner of La Ruta de France, cyclo-cross and criterium expert Adam Myserson, Phil Gaimon who recently signed with Word Tour Team Garmin-Sharp, breakaway strong-man of the year Jim Stemper, two time national champion Jeremiah Bishop and many, many others have helped get the wheels turning. I was that kid in little league that couldn't hit, catch, or throw – all of those necessary qualities needed for a successful baseball team - and thankfully cycling gave me a sport that I immediately fell in love with (and did not involve a ball), a supportive community, and eventually my profession. This sport gave me most of what I have. This is my first step in helping give a little bit back. Someday when I'm a gozillionare, I'll buy thousands of bikes, pay all the entry fees, set up leagues, and be an ultimate super fan with life size cardboard cut outs of all the riders. For now, all I have is a couple boxes of parts and gear. For more details please see: curtiswinsor.com/grassroots-cycling Coaching Tip: When working with young entry level juniors, its very important to foster their development by limiting their time on the bike – yes limiting! Many successful juniors who are absolute stars under 14 suffer “burn out” from over training at a young age. As the riders are still growing and have other responsibilities, striking a balance is very important. There is a lot of emphasis on fitness training in cycling. Juniors at such a young age will benefit most from skills drills, cornering practice, group rides and simply hanging out with other kids and adults who like bikes!