Young cyclers ready for the road

Jan. 02, 2014 @ 04:47 PM

Twelve-year-old Michael Hammer has loved bicycling since he was 6.
“I like going fast,” he said.
Now that he’s joined the cycling team at The School for Creative Studies in Durham, he has more opportunities to hit the road and sharpen his skills.
Michael was one of a group of students at the new northern Durham magnet school who helped assemble 14 racing bicycles last month for the school’s cycling team -- the first high school-based USA Cycling team in North Carolina.
The bikes were donated by Durham-based United Therapeutics Corp.
Roger Jeffs, CEO of the Research Triangle Park company, said his employees wanted to be part of the team’s trailblazing effort.
“I hope these bikes will help transform kids' lives and help the team succeed,” he said. “We want to participate in community giving and service.”
Sheila Miglarese, community liaison at the school on Hamlin Road, said cycling helps students learn about physics, physiology and exercise.
“The students are learning all these things and get the opportunity to compete at a state level,” she said.
Assistant Principal Andrea Hundredmark, an avid cycler and team coach, said high school cycling teams are rare in the United States.
“We're hoping to start a trend and get cycling in schools across North Carolina,” she said.
The 20-member team launched in August, and started with borrowed bikes.
“Often, socio-economics determines whether you can compete in this sport, and by having a public school cycling team, you’re opening the floodgates to allowing a variety of kids to participate,” she said. “It’s leveling the playing field.”
The team plans to participate in at least four competitions each school year.
“The more funding we get, the more competitions our kids can participate in,” Hundredmark said. “The team will compete in sanctioned races with kids in their age group. The top riders could eventually win college scholarships.”
Helping students to turn boxes of parts into road-worthy bikes were employees of Durham Cycles bike shop, which donated their time and expertise.
“We support biking in all its forms in Durham, and it’s exciting to have a high school team out there,” said owner David Loschiavo.
For sixth-grader Nia Shields, being a team member is a chance to fine-tune the riding skills she began to develop at age five.
“I want to keep riding my bike at school,” she said. “It’s really cool to be on the first team, because we’re like role models to other schools that want to try this. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”