February can be a bummer of a month for cyclists. The days are short and cold, and the roads can get icy – not ideal conditions for biking outside. But, if you think there’s only so much fun to be had riding a stationary bike, you probably haven’t heard of VeloSprints.
Combining competition and fundraising, VeloSprints is an indoor bicycle sprinting tournament created by the US Open Cycling Foundation (USOCF). At each event – hosted at different venues throughout the community – participants sprint 500 meters on stationary bike rigs, while computer-generated race dials track their progress.
Now in its third season, the series runs through the end of March, with a Grand Finale taking place on April 1 at McFadden’s downtown. Individuals and teams that participate in any VeloSprints event can register for the finale, at which riders and teams have the chance to win thousands of dollars worth of prizes. Seeding at the finale is based on the fastest race times throughout the series within multiple categories, including age and gender.
VeloSprints is not only a racing tournament, it’s also a way for USOCF to reach kids through its in-school program called Cycle-for-Health. Executive Director Richard Durishin says that the program covers everything: the different kinds of bikes, how to correctly wear a helmet, obeying the rules of the road, nutrition and proper hydration. “We work very hard to ensure that everyone walks out with their helmet properly adjusted, with knowledge about how to keep it that way and with clear understanding of how to ride to maximize their safety,” Durishin says.
This year’s VeloSprints event hosts include health clubs, spin studios and local businesses, in addition to its traditional pub venues. Each host venue has adopted a school in its neighborhood and, through the event, aims to raise enough money for that school so it can receive one or more of USOCF’s smart cycling programs. If the venue raises $500, its adopted school will receive the Cycle-for-Health program this spring; if it raises $1,000, USOCF will include a weekend family cycling program in the school’s parking lot.
Why does Durishin feel it’s so important to spread the word to kids about the benefits of cycling? “Kids with healthy life habits grow to be adults with healthy life habits,” he says. And beyond being a form of physical activity, “bicycling is also transportation and something you can do for your entire life. When you consider that 75 percent of car trips taken are less than three miles, building a local bicycling habit gets you where you are going and gets you healthier, too.”
For those who miss being in the saddle over the winter months – and don’t want to contend with unpredictable conditions – VeloSprints is a great way to stay competitive and sneak in some sprint work, all for a good cause.