Bicycle Racers Converge On Downtown Danbury

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Women riders at a turn during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday. It was held on a 1-kilometer course.
Women riders at a turn during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday. It was held on a 1-kilometer course. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
A rider makes a turn during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday. It was held on a 1-kilometer course.
A rider makes a turn during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday. It was held on a 1-kilometer course. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
A band plays during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday.
A band plays during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Women race during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday.
Women race during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Women race during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday.
Women race during the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional bicycle races in downtown Danbury on Sunday. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Julianne Oberle, 32, of Easthampton, Mass., along with other riders prepare for their race Sunday at the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium.
Julianne Oberle, 32, of Easthampton, Mass., along with other riders prepare for their race Sunday at the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Katrina Niez pedals hard as she warms up for a bicycle race in downtown Danbury on Sunday.
Katrina Niez pedals hard as she warms up for a bicycle race in downtown Danbury on Sunday. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
A young racer  at the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional races. It was held on a 1-kilometer course in the city.
A young racer at the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional races. It was held on a 1-kilometer course in the city. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
A young racer at the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional races. It was held on a 1-kilometer course in the city.
A young racer at the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional races. It was held on a 1-kilometer course in the city. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Young racers take the first corner at the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional races. It was held on a 1-kilometer course in the city.
Young racers take the first corner at the Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium amateur and professional races. It was held on a 1-kilometer course in the city. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

DANBURY, Conn. -- As they prepared for their hourlong race on a 1-kilometer course in Danbury a group of women were - you guessed it - cycling hard to warm up.

"You want to be ready to go fast right away," said Katrina Niez, 42, of Woodbury about the need for to get off to a quick start at the Pro 1,2,3 Women event Sunday at the inaugural Danbury Audi Race4Scholars Criterium.

It was one of the highlights of a day of bicycle racing, which City Council member Duane Perkins was instrumental in organizing. Perkins, a college professor at Naugatuck Valley Community College, is also president of WHEELpassion, a nonprofit youth scholarship organization. Its purpose is to encourage adolescents from underrepresented groups to live healthier and fuller lives through a series of sustainable student-led health initiatives, educational programs, cycling, and physical exercises.

Perkins said he used to attend high-level bicycle races that were held in Danbury about a decade ago and decided to organize another one after a number of years without racing.

"This has been a dream of mine," he said as he watched female bicyclists zip past. "And I wanted to bring it back to Danbury."

He was especially proud of the turnout for the women's feature race, noting that they ensured the women received the same prize money as the men. 

"We thought it was important to do that, and it's unusual that we have to talk about that in the year 2014, but here we are," he said. 

USA Cycling sanctioned the event, which featured six amateur category races and two professional races in the streets of downtown Danbury. The course was a classic four-­corner criterium, making the course fast and challenging for top professional cyclists and amateurs from across the tri-­state area.

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