Masters’ Games cyclists get their day in the sun -- and wind
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) — It was a gorgeous weekend for a bike race and Walnut Hill Park presented the best possible course, according to cyclists who flocked there from across the state.
The 2019 Connecticut Masters’ Games Criterium Cycling Competition drew about 150 Sunday, whose skill and ability were tested by fellow cyclists and a sunny but windy day.
“The wind is a challenge because we’re up on a hill but that’s what makes you stronger,” said Norwalk resident David Bailey.
Overcoming challenges is something Bailey knows a lot about. The 61-year-old cyclist survived a horrific accident last year, sustaining broken ribs, a punctured lung and other serious injuries. He’s recovered fully, but Sunday’s Criterium was his first time back on the bike race circuit.
“As you age it’s definitely harder to recover, but I’m trying to put it behind me,” Bailey explained. “Without this race I don’t know that I’d have the incentive to keep on training and the confidence to get back into racing again. It’s given me hope.”
The nonprofit Connecticut Sports Management runs the Connecticut Masters’ Games, a yearly Olympic-style competition for men and women 30 and up, featuring 14 sports. The city of New Britain and Central Connecticut State University have hosted the games since 2011.
“We’ll be close to 1,700 athletes participating this year,” Executive Director Patrick Fisher said.
Fisher understands the value of staying active as you get older, learning from those in their 80s and 90s who compete in the Masters’ Games’ oldest age divisions.
“I think our event is extremely important to them,” he said. “It helps them lead an active and healthy lifestyle.”
Several events took place in April, but the majority were held this past weekend.
Women’s slow-pitch softball, swimming, pickleball, track and field, and men’s three-on-three basketball all took place Saturday. The cycling competition took place Sunday morning and continued into the afternoon.
“The largest individual sport is pickleball,” Fisher said. “We’ll have over 350 participants. The largest team sport will probably be the men’s softball games at the end of June.”
He expects around 30 teams of men 50 and older to take part in this event. Games will take place June 22-25 at Sage Park in Berlin, Smith Field in Middletown and the Connecticut Sportsplex in North Branford.
The cycling competition is particularly significant to many Masters’ Games’ athletes, who train for months before the race.
“This course was designed for bike racing and that’s what makes it so venerable for us,” Bailey said. “Also there aren’t many racing events left anymore. This is one of the few that have survived the attrition. It’s an awesome event.”
People came from all across the state to take part. Many happened to be past visitors to Walnut Hill, designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1870 and a destination for cycling enthusiasts.
It was a first time for Danbury resident Joe McCafferty, who warmed up along Vine Street before his race.
“It’s nice to come to a place where you don’t have to worry about traffic,” McCafferty said. “It’s a fun ride.”
Information from: New Britain Herald, http://www.newbritainherald.com