Miller School of Albemarle (MSA) Endurance team caught USA Cycling’s attention in their inaugural year. The high school established road and mountain bike teams separate of the growing national league.
The Miller School is an international day and boarding school that is situated in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is has a burgeoning scene of professional and amateur cyclists. The city is also a potential host one of the national sport governing body’s annual regional development camps.
“They run a program independently and it was successful,” Andrea Smith, of USA Cycling, told BikeRadar. “They do a great job and we are hoping to add them as a regional development camp as an entry to our Development Pathway. We are trying to bring them in as one of our camps and potentially speak about how to unify high school cycling.”
The team includes 15 riders and is expected to expand to 20 over the next three years with help from a cycling scholarship fund. Peter Hufnagel, the program’s founder and MSA believe they’ve created the ideal place for junior riders to attend school while striving to meet their training and racing goals.
“The school wants to grow the program into the premier cycling team in the country, and we are actively seeking junior racers who want to incorporate their passion for cycling with an outstanding prep school education,” Hufnagel said.
The program received coaching assistance from local professional cyclists Andy Guptill (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Andrea Dvorak (Colavita Forno D’Asolo). US Pro Road Champion Ben King (RadioShack) recently donated funds to the program in honor of his coach, USA Cycling’s Vice President of Athletics Jim Miller.
“Having the leaders of the school behind the program has been absolutely key to the program's inception and quick growth,” Hufnagel said. “Ben King has taken an active role in the program and has help to establish a relationship with USA Cycling which we plan to grow over the next few years.”
Hufnagel started the junior road and mountain bike program last winter at the request of the international day and boarding high school’s athletic director Scott Willard and the MSA administration. The school funds roughly 25 percent of the cost of running the cycling team and the remaining 75 percent comes from community and industry donations and gifts-in-kind.
The Miller School's campus offers space for off-road training and racing
The riders have the run of the high school’s 1,600-acre campus that includes an abundance of off-road terrain. Off campus, Albemarle County’s trail and road system is situated in the foothills of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains.
All student-cyclists are enrolled in an advanced bicycle mechanics class held at new on-campus bike shop renovated from an historical building. Students learn to build their own bike before training and racing school issued bike.
“Having athletes understand advanced bicycle mechanics has been a big selling point of the program,” Hufnagel said. “We can do all repairs and builds on campus. Before an athlete races one of the custom road bikes, he or she has to know how to build it up, including everything from installing the crankset to cables and housing. MSA athletes can pretty much repair anything that could go wrong on a bike.”
Industry supporters of MSA include Kazane Bikes owned by Stratton Delaney, who made the team fully custom road bikes and equipped them with SRAM Rival build kits. Other supporters include TREK, Bontrager, Kona and Park Tool. Athletes are also outfitted with kits, helmets, shoes and an individual training program.
Hufnagel would like to take high school bike racing in Virginia to the next level and form a state wide cycling league. For now, he is working with the Virginia Off-Road Series in addition to hosting races with other Virginia high schools.
Virginia is not a member of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), a national governing body for mountain biking in grades 9-12. The association currently includes leagues in California, Texas, Washington and Colorado.
“We’ve had a number of inquiries from the Virginia area as well as North Carolina, Maryland and Washington DC and we would love to talk to anyone out there that is interested in starting a high school mountain bike league,” said NICA Executive Director Matt Fritzinger. “In 2012 we will have band width for more leagues. There are a lot of states that are interested and we have a lot to offer them.”