Louisville cycling scene is a big, welcoming ‘party’ that gives back

Perched atop bikes in some shade at Seneca Park, there was chatter among the four members of Revolution Devo Cycling and their coaches. 

Most of the chatter was centered around the recent controversy springing out of this year’s Tour de France — whether cycling champion Peter Sagan intentionally threw his elbow out to force an opponent to crash into a barrier or to balance himself out and avoid crashing.

Avoiding crashes is a good skill for any cyclist, so the members of the nonprofit cycling group planned to work on balance and body positioning.

Biking out to the Wilderness Loop Trail, one of the coaches was instructing the youths on the finer points of taking a turn going uphill without putting down a foot or wiping out, forcing a running start uphill.

“It’s no fun to go mountain bike running,” said Brian Segal, a Revolution coach for the group’s junior mountain bike program.

Revolution is a reincarnation of Red Zone Cycling, a cycling nonprofit that dissolved in 2015. Founded by Michael Seiler in January 2016, Revolution came about as parents of children involved in Red Zone tried to keep the group afloat. Revolution was the solution to “fill the void” for youth cycling.

“I’m a builder by nature, so I said ‘let’s create our own thing,’ ” Seiler said.

One of the main purposes of Revolution is teaching kids cycling skills and safety, he said.

And practice is a central aspect of what Revolution does. Their latest practice was focused on making turns uphill and cycling downhill the proper way.

“It’s rewarding to me to see the kids become involved in it and really enjoy the sport and watch them grow,” said Mike Falk, a junior mountain bike coach and ride.

Seiler said considers being able to cycle and ride a bike a gift. And as the Revolution riders learn how to ride, there’s also a need to give back.

“Receiving a gift means giving back,” he said.

One of the ways Revolution gives back is by volunteering with the annual Bike to Beat Cancer ride, a one-day cycling event for riders of all experience which benefits the Norton Cancer Institute. This year’s ride is on Sept. 9.

Anne Cannon, special events manager for Norton Healthcare Foundation, said having a cycling team involved with the event helps with any bike related issues that come up and provides a safe environment for kids and parents participating.

“I think they add an element of fun and provide a role model for the youth in our family rides,” Cannon said.

Louisville Short Track

Aside from coaching the junior mountain bike program, Segal is part of the duo behind the creation of the Louisville MTB Short Track Series, a popular racing series that first appeared in Louisville nine years ago at River Road Country Club.

The annual event is held over five weeks every summer at Eva Bandman Park. Short track racing involves racers doing multiple laps on short courses with races ranging from five to 30 minutes, depending on age and experience.

This year’s short track season wrapped up a few weeks ago, and Segal said they had somewhere between 125 and 150 racers each week. They’ve also seen continued growth in the space at Eva Bandman, both in participants and sponsors.

“It’s fast, intense, fun and afterward there’s cheeseburgers, there’s beer, there’s ice cream,” he said.

Racers are often dealing with high temperatures, maxing out their heart rate, and dealing with multiple jumps and drops on the course, all of which as Segal has said can be intense in nature.

“You’ll see as these people come through, they’ll want to die,” Segal jokingly said as several races passed by the starting line clearly out of breath and red in the face.

A growing community

 Short track racing is one of the more spectator-friendly forms of racing, said Anthony Slowinski, who has been a cross-country mountain bike and short track racer for 25 years.

Slowinski described short track racing as “an odd child of cross-country racing.”

“It’s kind of like a big party,” he said.

Parents, family members and friends can often be found lined around the course at Eva Bandman, sometimes going inside the track between the trails as well, shouting words of encouragement to racers as they whirl by.

Segal said a community has coalesced around short track, partially because the relative ease of joining but also being accessible to other forms of biking such as cyclo-cross and off-road racing.

As the short track series has continued to grow over the past nine years, Seiler wants to grow Revolution as well. He wants to keep adding participants as well as teaching life skills alongside biking, such as nutrition and healthy habits.

For now, Luke Napier, a 14-year-old biker who has been mountain biking since he was 5, will continue to learn how to make that left uphill turn.

“I’m learning and getting better,” Napier said, “and that’s the best part about it.”

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