Beloved cycling event returns to the Elm City
On Sept. 16, the New Haven Grand Prix returned for its sixth year as attendees enjoyed an evening of food, festivities and bicycle races.
Ophelia He, Contributing Photographer
After two years’ hiatus during the pandemic, the sixth New Haven Grand Prix — Connecticut’s most anticipated cycling event — took place on the evening of Sept. 16.
College Street was shut down on Friday to make way for over 10,000 cyclists, who rode in loops around the downtown, traveling between Chapel Street and Elm Street. There were seven different races in the Grand Prix, separated by age, gender and experience levels. Meanwhile, attendees could enjoy local New Haven pizza at a festival that ran from 4 to 10 p.m.
The Grand Prix was organized by the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program (CCAP), a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that all children can learn how to ride a bicycle. According to the company’s website, they want to “put every child in Connecticut on a bike” and have introduced thousands of children aged nine to 18 to the sport of cycling.
“It’s great in downtown New Haven, like this venue for race, crowd, food, so, I love it,” said Mike Williams, who competed in the Grand Prix this year with his team Body Over Bike. “It’s really a team effort, so we ride in support of each other.”
The race offers a chance for people from all across Connecticut to learn about New Haven, Williams said — he himself is a West Hartford resident.
He added that his favorite aspect of the Grand Prix was working together in a team with his fellow cyclists.
“I love riding with this group of guys; it’s great to help each other in a team, you feel really good during the help, and if one of the guys did really well, the result, it feels great,” Williams added.
Alfred Wong ARCH ’24, a second-year student in the Yale School of Architecture, commented on the event’s competitiveness. Wong is a member of Yale Cycling.
Friday was Wong’s first time competing in the Grand Prix, and he said that he was looking forward to “try [his] best” even though some people competing were nationally ranked cyclists.
Brenner Dick, a senior in high school who competed in the junior men’s division, commented, “it was a really fun race that goes super super fast … I didn’t have the best race today but my teammate won, so overall it’s successful as a team.”
Dick raced for the team Total Training Endurance this year, which has a “professional and well-maintained environment,” he said. This was his first time attending, and he expressed that he will certainly be at the Grand Prix next year.
Besides the race, there was also an Apizza Feast and beer garden at the Grand Prix, attracting celebrating cyclists and non-bikers alike. The Apizza Feast was organized by Taste of New Haven, a company providing food tours in New Haven.
Colin M. Caplan, the owner and one of the tour guides for Taste of New Haven, said they had a team of about 15 people promoting the event. Any interested vendors could sign up with Taste of New Haven and bring their delicacies to Saturday’s event.
“Everything is organized to be fluent,” added Caplan. “Over 15,000 people here, and I believe everything is going to sell out … part of our job is to make sure everyone has something to eat.”
Caplan is a “New Havener, born and raised.” He has written books on New Haven history, and even produced a movie about New Haven pizza called “Pizza: A Love Story.”
In the past three years, the Grand Prix was put on hold due to the pandemic. This year, Caplan said that significant collaboration between local businesses and city departments was necessary in order to bring the event back in full force.
“We came back and tried to make it a free event, and try to make it as big and fun as usual, but we still have lots of restraints,” Caplan expressed. “Everybody has to get used to different things … that’s a lot more work”.
But Caplan said this year has been quite successful so far, adding, “I’m very happy with this year. We have more people. I think this is one of the best years we’ve had.”
Working with the sponsor Ooni Pizza Oven, which Caplan called “the world’s leading backyard pizza oven,” was crucial to making sure that this year’s Grand Prix was free to all.
Lucile Martin, manager of Ooni Pizza Oven, said it was her company’s first time attending this event. They were selling their outdoor pizza ovens at the Apizza Feast, donating all proceeds to the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program.
At the stand for Abates Pizza, vendor Dana Rivera said that they had sold hundreds of pizzas during the Grand Prix.
“It’s always fun to come down and interact with our community,” Rivera said.