Capital Velo Club hosts bicycle races at Founder's Plaza

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Wed., Jun. 27, 2012
Cyclists in the Category 3 race hug a turn around Founder's Plaza in East Hartford at the Keith Berger Memorial Criterium on June 24. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.
Cyclists in the Category 3 race hug a turn around Founder's Plaza in East Hartford at the Keith Berger Memorial Criterium on June 24. Photos by Christian Mysliwiec.

On Sunday, June 24, the Capital Velo Club/Subaru New England cycling team held the Keith Berger Memorial Criterium at Founder's Plaza in East Hartford. The day of bicycle races determined the 2012 Connecticut Criterium Cycling Champions.

The Capital Velo Club started at Pig Iron Bike Shop in Glastonbury in 1989. This is their seventh year hosting races at Founder's Plaza, though they have raced in honor of their former teammate, Keith Berger, for eight years. Berger passed away from leukemia, and a portion of the race's proceeds support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training program, as well as U23, which supports cyclists under the age of 23 in New England.

“It was a sport near and dear to his heart,” said Chris Berger, brother of Keith. “The race is an opportunity to keep his memory alive.” 

The races attract teams from in and around Connecticut, though only the highest placing racers from Connecticut receive state champion titles. According to Capital Velo Club President Mike Paggioli, participation has increased since the USA Cycling Association awarded the club the right to host the Connecticut Criterium Series Championship two years ago, an event formerly hosted in New Britain. 

“It helps grow the event when people come to compete for the state title,” said Paggioli.

To host the championship, the Capital Velo Club had to adapt its memorial race. “We had to change the races to conform to championship standards,” said Massimiliano Accaputo, sponsorship manager for the club. This meant that many races were made more rigorous, for example, criteriums that were formerly 25 miles are now 30. 

As Capital Velo Club hosts races in accordance with USAC guidelines, the races were divided into categories and all racers were licensed through USAC. Cyclists begin their competitive career by buying a license from USAC and becoming categorized. Beginners start in category 5. As cyclists complete races, they earn points that can be used to upgrade to a higher category. “Category 1 is the highest category you can be in before you get Pro License,” said Accaputo.  “Someone like Lance Armstrong and the pros went through the same system.

“If you’re racing in category 1 and doing well, you get a lot of attention and gain notoriety. Pro cycling teams might notice you, and even ask to hire you,” said Accaputo. “You would sign a contract and race professionally.”

The races are criteriums, meaning that they take place on a closed course a mile long or shorter, with riders completing multiple laps. The highlight of the Keith Berger Memorial Criterium was the Pro Race, which was 40 miles.

In the Men's Pro Race, the Connecticut Championship gold medal winner was Ernest Tautkus, with Luciano Bezerra winning silver and Ryan Serbel winning bronze. In the Women's Open, Laura Summers was the highest Connecticut racer, followed by Robyn Passander and Giulia Righi.

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