Royce Felten is an endurance cyclist. That makes sense for so many reasons. At age 14, he has already battled and beaten Hodgkins lymphoma. He has also faced the many challenges that go along with being a person with autism. So, what’s a 100-mile bike ride?
“I just like being on the bike for long periods of time,” says Royce, who has completed four 100-mile rides and plenty of other rides longer than 50 miles. “Not many juniors do that.”
Royce was just 3 when he started following pro cycling and the Tour de France with his stepdad, and his interest really caught fire in 2014, while he was still undergoing chemotherapy. He finished his cancer treatment in June of that year and joined his first team, that August, when he was 8. He eventually became part of a team called GS Andiamo,
Royce and young cyclists like him are among the reasons GS Andiamo founder Sean Wilson recently launched the Youth Cycling Association, an organization dedicated to opening up youth cycling opportunities for all. “It’s been great watching him grow within the sport and providing him opportunities to participate,” says Wilson, a physiology professor at Loma Linda University, cycling coach and former professional cyclist. Wilson says Royce is now beginning to take on leadership roles within GS Andiamo. “We can see his strengths, so we leveraged those strengths so that he can have positive impact on other people,” he says. “We’ve had a really good track record of working with kids who have autism. That is something we truly support in our own organization and we’re building that out within the Youth Cycling Association also.”
Royce has even been working to put together a four-person junior team to race a 1,000-mile relay. Unfortunately, there aren’t many junior endurance cyclists in the area.
Which brings us back to the mission of the Youth Cycling Association. Barriers to cycling, according to Wilson, include the cost of equipment, coaching and travel. He says many local cycling organizations, including his, work to provide free and low-cost bike access and scholarships for other expenses. The goal of the association is to bring these resources together and to connect with larger sponsors to expand opportunity for kids in underserved areas. “There are lots of opportunities, but a lot of those can be cost prohibitive, so we’ve started reaching out to those organizations that offer reduced pricing for junior athletes,” he says.
The Youth Cycling Association invites cycling programs across the U.S. to become affiliates and help expand cycling opportunities for all. For individual cyclists, its website offers a list of local and national resources.
In L.A. County, Wilson points to the Los Angeles Velodrome Racing Association in Carson as a great resource. His organization, he says, will have its track national championships there in July and host preparatory programming in the spring.
Wilson also mentions Youth Educational Sports, which teaches cycling in 37 middle schools in L.A. county, and is a Youth Cycling Association partner. “One of our goals is to work with them to generate school-based clubs,” he says.
The SoCal High School Cycling League runs local mountain biking programs through several schools, providing opportunities for those who want to bike in the dirt.
By working together, Wilson hopes that these organizations can move the entire sport of youth cycling forward. For more information, visit http://ycacycling.com