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.