New Haven parks officials organize a citywide mountain bike team


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NEW HAVEN, Connecticut — When Nicholas Davis first noticed his clothes were getting baggy he realized his favorite pastime of riding bikes was more than just a hobby: it was a means to significant weight loss.


“I ride bikes everywhere when I have one,” Davis said.


Over time, Davis watched his weight fall from 250 to 180 pounds. A junior at James Hillhouse High School, Davis said he rides and fixes bikes for fun, and the fitness aspect is just an added bonus.


Davis is now a member of the new citywide mountain bike team organized through the Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees. The team results from collaboration between the department and the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program. Students will meet twice a week and participate in races biweekly.


City Outdoor Adventure Coordinator Martin Torresquintero and CCAP school Development Director Karen Franzen visited Hillhouse Thursday in the first recruiting attempt, and they didn’t come away empty-handed. CCAP brought along two stationary bikes that connected with a monitor and allowed students to compete against one another, simulating the feel of racing on an actual course.


Torresquintero said the purpose of Thursday’s visit was to “entice kids to ride and get a feeling of what it is to compete.”


The sounds of students cheering each other on echoed throughout the first floor of the school and could be heard from the main entrance. About 100 students stopped by throughout the morning and at least a dozen signed up for the team’s first session this summer. Students from Common Ground and Wilbur Cross high schools have also demonstrated interest in the team, Torresquintero said.


The registration fee for the six-week program is $30. Torresquintero said if the need arises, scholarships will be made available.


The equipment and operations of the team are financed through the parks department, CCAP, donations and money raised through Rock-to-Rock. The department has a fleet of about 70 bikes.


“Participants, literally, all they need to do is be willing to participate because they’re going to be utilizing brand new equipment and professional coaching,” Torresquintero said.


CCAP contributed $5,600 in cycling gear, as well as professional coaches for the team.


“The goal is to provide a unique opportunity for people to enrich their lives, to get better in sports and to get more physically active,” Torresquintero said.


For youths who are not good at basketball or football, this is another positive avenue, Torresquintero said.


Raekwon Gary, a Hillhouse senior, also expressed interest in the team. Gary is a former participant in the city’s Positive Adventure Initiative that engages students in physical activities. Gary was one of a few that rode in the coldest temperatures, Torresquintero recalled.


As for Davis, the team could be the start of something big. Davis said he’s interested in potentially racing and also in working with the department to fix bikes. He said he fixes a number of bikes in the basement of his father’s house at any given time and plans to go to trade school for auto mechanics. Torresquintero said he could use Davis’ skills with some of the basic repairs.


Davis said when he gets a car, his bike would still get more use.


“I’m going to have a car and a bike and my bike’s going to have more mileage on it than my car,” Davis said.


In the future, Torresquintero said he hopes to have a cycling team in every city high school. This summer the city also is offering a new mountain-biking camp open to residents and non-residents, and suitable for youths 12 to 17. The camp runs from July 21-25.


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