Tom Sunday is an active racer, but not satisfied with just participating, this high school coach wanted to give something back to cycling. He noticed that junior participation at the races was lacking. With the help of a friend who donated cycling clothing, Sunday convinced local bike shops to rent race bikes to the junior riders for twenty dollars a month and started the Forest Acres junior cycling team. Originally the team was recruiting riders from just A.C. Flora high school. Now junior riders from the different area high schools are part of the Forest Acres squad.
The squad started with four riders and the following year grew to six. Now for the past five years Coach Sunday has kept the group to about ten riders.
Coach Sunday doesn’t just give them the bikes and let them go – Sunday is a part of the team’s preparation.
“I train with them and it gives the parents a sense of what’s going on rather than just giving them a training plan and telling them, ‘Go ride 70 miles by yourself.’ You can’t do that to a 10th grader. I know that because I have coached (wrestling) for 11 years and parents want that supervision. I go out and ride with them as well as take them to the races. We drove out to Bend, Oregon for nationals and rode Moab (National Park) along the way. It’s also educational.”
The team receives funding from the local city hospitality tax and the city of Blythewood and in return the team promotes a race in the city. Any of the proceeds from the race funds the Forest Acres squad for the following year.
“We’re always a bit short of money and we’re at the end of our bike tenure – those are three year old bikes, ” said Coach Sunday pointing to the team’s Specialized road bikes.
Coach Sunday has a goal for promoting cycling at the high school level.
“If a kid comes to me and wants to try cycling I want to have everything in place for them. It takes a lot of resources to do that. It would be hard to tell a parent that they need to put out $2,000 to try bike racing. This gives them a chance to give it a go.”
One junior rider who is giving it a go is A.C. Flora high school sophomore Daniel Ward. A cross country runner in the fall, Ward races his Specialized bike the rest of the year participating in almost weekly events. His main peak for the season was the junior national championships in Bend held this past June.
Known for his strong accelerations, Ward broke away with Johnny Mitchell about half way through the 50 minute 3/4 race at the recent Vista Gran Prix. Taking strong pulls, even in his reduced junior restricted gearing, Ward was a significant factor to the success of the break. So much so that Mitchell told him that he could have the win. With this recent victory Ward believes he has earned enough upgrade points to move up to the very competitive category 2 division. While only 16-years old look for Ward to be a serious threat next year. You’ve been warned.