FACETIME- Easy riders: Helping kids go the distance

On Saturday mornings, typical teenagers sleep in, IM their friends, hook up to their iPods, and generally laze around. But for 11 young members of the local Boys and Girls Club, since last May, Saturday mornings have meant waking up early to drive to Old Trail Village in Crozet to hop on a bike and ride... and ride and ride.

The 11 youngsters– who had never ridden road bikes before May– are a team preparing to tackle 100 miles in the "Boys and Girls Club Challenge" fundraiser, the brainchild of event chair Dennis Crumpler. 

Under the guidance of long-time cyclists Eric Cardella and Ruth Stornetta, well known in the local cycling community, the eight boys and three girls meet each Saturday morning to attempt increasingly strenuous rides. 

Their biggest cheerleader and fan is Adriana Albano, a 22-year-old graduate of St. Anne's Belfield and employee of the Boys and Girls Club. Albano started working with the local club shortly after her graduation from Tulane University this spring. She calls her work at the Club "a perfect fit" with her undergraduate major in child psychology.

Albano's pride in her team is palpable. "Two Saturdays ago, Chris Cobbs did 75 miles, the most anyone has done so far," she says. "And he and Dara Johnston both participated in the Virginia state championship road race on August 19, racing against cyclists who have been doing this for years. Dana won silver in the 10-14 age group."

The young coach is especially excited about her team's progress. "They were all given bikes, shorts, jerseys, helmets, and glasses in the beginning," she says, "and if they complete the challenge, they get to keep them all."  

But completing the challenge may be easier said than done. On September 17, the kids (and teams representing corporate and non-profit sponsors) will line up to start one of several "challenges." The big megillah of the event is the "century ride"– three different loops that together total 100 miles: one to Boonesville, one up Afton mountain (to the "Cookie Lady's" house), and one on Taylor's Gap Road around Greenwood.

"It will take them six to seven hours," Albano says, "but most of them will be ready. So far, seven of the 11 kids have done 70 miles." 

Even the riders who might not be ready for the full 100 miles have impressive goals for young people who had never crouched over handlebars before May. Several are aiming for the "metric century," at 65 miles a daunting goal in itself.

Club board member and event vice-chair Carl Frischkorn is another flag-waver for the team. "These youngsters have spent all summer in a rigorous training program," he says. "They're learning about nutrition, athletics, health and recovery. It's a great focus for their summer."

The focus for the community is the goal of the event– $200,000– and the on-going work of the Club itself. "We wanted a way to help raise funds for the Boys and Girls Club that would involve the kids," says Crumpler. 

Looks as though they've found the perfect vehicle: brand new tricked-out LeMond racing cycles.

Adriana Albano