CORNWALL — When Keith Bodwell moved to town from Pennsylvania two years ago, he was looking for a bike racing team for his oldest son, Colton. But the closest team he could find was one hour away, in Cheshire.
Due to the long commute, it was getting tough to make practice, so instead he decided to start a new team — one that’s based right in town.
The team, called Paceline Junior Cycling, is for youth ages 8 to 18. Participants will compete against other teams through the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program, a nonprofit organization with teams throughout the state.
“We will recruit from the area, as far away as they are willing to come,” said Bodwell, who is a father of six, a civil engineer and pastor. Colton, who is now 13, has been bike racing since he was 8.
Bodwell, who will be head coach of the new team, is in the process of recruiting members from local schools for the team, which will begin in mid-April. He is also looking for volunteers to assist him.
Practices will take place twice a week, on the back roads of Falls Village and Cornwall. During the summer, there will be weekly races in a series at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
The CCAP offers three different types of bike racing — mountain bike, cyclo-cross and road bike. In all competitions, team members are grouped by age.
“We will start out our first year just doing the road biking season,” said Bodwell, which will go through September, and then go into cyclo-cross in the fall. Next year, he plans to begin mountain biking with the team.
Bodwell has been cycling for over 20 years and has completed his Level 3 USA Cycling coach license. He was the founder and coach of the Pennsylvania cycling team, also called Paceline Junior Cycling, which is no longer active.
Jed Kornbluh, executive director of the CT Cycling Advancement Program, said he’s “thrilled to have Keith step up and bring his vision and expertise to the CT Cycling Advancement Program.”
Kornbluh added when the Bodwell family began attending the Tuesday Night Criterium Race Series in 2019, “Keith was always willing to jump in and lend a hand, help a young rider, or even attempt to repair broken equipment. His coaching pedigree and warm heart make him a great fit for the young cyclists of Litchfield County, and I look forward to watching the new team grow under his direction.”
Whenever the team is meeting off their bikes in close proximity with each other, they will wear masks and adhere to all social distancing COVID-19 guidelines.
Youth aren’t required to race in order to be on the team. However, if they do race, they need a road bike. For practicing, they can use any kind of bike until they’re able to get a road bike.
“We do have some connections to try to help the kids find road bikes,” Bodwell said.
Bodwell said he is looking forward to watching the kids develop their skills and improve over time.
“From working with some of my son’s friends when I coached in Pennsylvania and seeing them thrive at the sport, I really enjoyed it,” he said.