Centers of Excellence

Meet 2021 Division I Club of the Year: Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program

By: Jim Rutberg  April 06, 2022

Cycling communities looking for proven methods for creating a thriving junior development program would be wise to learn about the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP). USA Cycling’s Division 1 (76+ USA Cycling licensed members) Club of the Year has more than 570 student-athletes, 85 volunteer coaches, and 25 regional teams and school clubs in communities throughout Connecticut.

Surprising Growth

Like many clubs around the country, CCAP adapted to the pandemic by adding a virtual program. Prior to the pandemic, the club focused on three seasons: Spring MTB, Summer Road, and Fall Cyclocross. At the beginning of the pandemic, a handful of riders and coaches transitioned to Zwift. The group rapidly grew to include 38 juniors and 8 coaches who met for group rides and club races up to three times per week. Even though pandemic restrictions on in-person club activities loosened in 2021, the Winter Zwift League became a permanent fixture as the club’s fourth season.

Surprisingly, the 2020-2021 Winter Zwift League had far-reaching effects on the club’s other seasons. Although many fear road cycling and road racing could be on the decline, CCAP experienced a 60% increase in road race participation and registration during the Summer Road season in 2021. A significant number of the riders who participated in the winter series went on to win league championships in MTB, road, and CX throughout 2021.

CCAP Executive Director Jed Kornbluh commented, “In 2020, many of the kids in the Zwift League were solidly mountain bike riders, and once they realized what structured training could do for them on the mountain bike, they pivoted over to compete on the road, too. And we’re likely seeing that reverberate again this year. We attracted even more of our mountain bike and cyclocross riders to the Zwift League this past winter, and this spring season is looking pretty awesome so far.”

Even with year-round programming, CCAP encourages kids to choose two or maybe three of the seasons. From optimal social, emotional, and physical development, it is important for kids to participate in a variety of activities and develop relationships with a range of peers and mentors.

One Mission, Many Programs

CCAP aims to improve lives through the sport of cycling by providing opportunities for middle and high school students – and recently even elementary students – to participate in cycling clubs, parks and recreation programs, and youth travel teams. To deliver services throughout the state of Connecticut, CCAP operates as an umbrella organization that oversees the operations of more than 25 Regional and School teams.

Community-based teams develop their own personalities – some are more mountain bike, road, or cyclocross focused – meaning they each have unique needs. Therefore, a portion of rider registration fees and fundraising proceeds are distributed to the individual teams each year. The organization also recruits and provides training for volunteer coaches. New for 2022, that includes CCAP’s own quick-reference flip charts for essential, intermediate, and advanced skills.

In addition to the community-based teams, CCAP provides grants and programming for schools to introduce kids to cycling and enable new riders to participate in introductory rides and trail days. CCAP even organizes competitive events specifically designed for the school programs to provide a more approachable, less intimidating introduction to racing. Executive Director Jed Kornbluh noted that the school programs often operate in areas where the organization has had difficulty attracting coaches outside of the school system, so it’s rare for a school program and a regional team to be available in the same community. To provide more access to kids who want to transition to the next level of racing, the club is actively looking for leaders who can start new teams in underserved areas.

Recruiting and Keeping Kids Engaged

Kids and parents have a lot of demands on their attention and time. Keeping kids in a junior cycling development program can be a challenge, so CCAP uses a multi-pronged approach. One approach is to focus on the parent volunteers. Creating a welcoming and supportive environment encourages parents to bring their friends into the fold and keep their kids involved in the program.

With prices climbing for just about everything, CCAP also focuses on keeping cycling affordable for families. Although there are seasonal registration fees, the club keeps fees competitive with or below the cost of other area sports programs (i.e. baseball, soccer, hockey) through fundraisers and entry fee revenue from adult and masters categories at races hosted by the club.

With teams spread all over the state, CCAP also maintains strong relationships with local bike shops that host events, hang flyers, provide incentives to club members, and show up to support races. The club organizes more than 40 races per year, across the mountain bike, road, and cyclocross disciplines.

A Record of Excellence

The 2021 USA Cycling Division 1 Club of the Year award is not the first time CCAP has been recognized for excellence. Since 2013, the CCAP has received many awards and honors from USA Cycling, the State of Connecticut, and other community organizations. Some include:

To Jed Kornbluh, meaningful growth is key to sustained excellence.

“My staff and I want to be able to know every rider in the program, every parent in the program, and have meaningful connections with them. The larger the program gets, the harder that becomes, so we want to grow at a meaningful pace rather than grow just for the sake of being bigger.”