Agomoni Saha, Contributing Photographer

New Haven’s highly anticipated Twilight Bike Race returned to the city on Friday evening, drawing thousands of spectators and 211 cyclists.

Hosted as a fundraiser for the Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program, the New Haven Grand Prix attracted visitors from New Haven and beyond, who stopped by between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Cyclists of all ages, from eight to over 40, raced on a rectangular cycling course formed between Chapel and Elm Streets. 

The race was a criterium — a one-day race where cyclists make laps around a short, enclosed course. Alongside the race, the Apizza Feast occupied College Street, where cyclists and spectators alike enjoyed live music and pizza from 10 different local pizza shops.

Aidan Charles, founder of the CCAP, said that the city’s atmosphere and the Apizza Feast enhance the experience for cyclists and spectators. 

“The unique placement and location, particularly with the restaurants and their support — it makes this just right,” Charles said. 

The Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program, which organizes the event each year, is a non-profit organization that works to introduce children across the state to cycling. Their mission, according to their website, is to provide youth ages nine to 18 a safe environment to participate in a team sport, learn valuable life skills and develop positive mindsets.

Charles touted the role of the grand prix’s course in making the race more exciting for spectators because they can see cyclists pass through multiple times in one race.

Dillon Pronovost, a longtime cyclist and the owner of Cheshire Cycle in neighboring Hamden, agreed with Charles that the environment at the race was special.

Pronovost told the News that he most enjoyed the atmosphere at the race — including the announcer, the food, the music and the crowds.

“You wouldn’t get any of these spectators at a race in Lyme Rock or some town in Western Mass.,” he said.

Erin Rand traveled from Plymouth, Massachusetts to race for the Magenta Express team. After racing, he told the News that although the course was “a little choppy,” he enjoyed the speed of the course, “which makes for good racing,” Rand said. 

Annabelle, a 10-year-old cyclist on the Farmington Valley Youth Cycling Team, has been riding for three years and began racing at the age of eight. Although this was her first grand prix, she said she was “very excited” and eager to win the championship jersey. 

April Caplan, a member of the management team for the walking food tours company Taste of New Haven, expressed how she is “super impressed” by the talent and skill levels of the bikers of all ages, especially the kids.

Gregg Ferraris and Julie Endich work for the CCAP as director of youth programming and event coordinator, respectively. This was Endich’s first year working at the grand prix after her son introduced her to the world of cycling. Endich said she was amazed at the environment and the community around cycling.

“Even though we’re working, it’s fun to be around all of the cyclists and our community and people that are coming out that are not in the cycling world,” she said.

Ferraris, who previously attended the New Haven Grand Prix as a volunteer for one year and a cyclist for two years, also said that it was entertaining to watch the bike races from another perspective.

The New Haven Apizza Feast, hosted by the Taste of New Haven, occurs in conjunction with the grand prix.

Agomoni Saha covers Nonprofits and Social Services as an associate beat reporter. She is a first-year in Saybrook College majoring in chemistry.