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After realizing that young riders needed a support system once they graduated high school, Chris Johnson created D3Devo, one of 10 cycling teams involved in the USA CRITS Championship Series, a premiere cycling series.

Credit: Courtesy of Chris Johnson

For Chris Johnson, cycling was always a natural hobby. He grew up in the part of California where the mountain bike was invented, so it only made sense that he would end up biking.

In high school and throughout college, however, he went off the beaten bike path and ended up competing in track and field.

However, Johnson, a 2005 College graduate, never forgot his passion for cycling. After returning to cycling and competing successfully after his graduation, Johnson was struck by the number of young cyclists with burgeoning potential but limited resources.

“I kind of reached a point in my cycling career when I realized I could accomplish a lot more by working with a group of talented young riders than I could just by working by myself,” he said.

While cycling is a sport with significantly fewer barriers to entry than sports like football or hockey, Johnson noticed a significant lack of support for college-aged riders, particularly on the East Coast.

“A lot of the times when a rider is under 18 and they’re in high school, they receive good support from the parents,” Johnson said. “[But then] when they go to college … that support stops.”

Inspired by both his passion for cycling and the talent and energy of young cyclists around him, Johnson decided to create a team specifically for young riders from across the United States.

Leading a team comprised entirely of young individuals has brought it’s own occasionally surprisingly challenges — “[There are] funny little things,” Johnson said of working with a young group, “Some of them didn’t even have driver’s licenses.”

However, it has also been uniquely rewarding — “It’s a young group of people who are really trying to make a splash in the sport,” he said. “The young guys are the future of the sport.”

Hopefully, Johnson’s young team avoids unexpected challenges this week as they travel to Philadelphia in order to compete in the Philadelphia Cycling Championship, a historic race that has seen many cycling greats — such as Lance Armstrong and Peter Sagan — over the previous decades.

The race, which takes place this Sunday, starts and ends at the Manayunk Wall and typically draws tens of thousands of spectators.

Not only does the race provide cyclists with the opportunity to compete with some of the best cyclists from all around the world, but it also awards the top under-23 competitor, a motivator especially relevant for Johnson’s team of young riders.

“[The Philly Cycling Classic] is a very, very significant race for the team,” Johnson explained. “So far this year we’ve raced in 11 different states, but this was the race we’ve been wanting to do all year. It’s all sort of been building up to this. It’s a point of pride to be in this event.”

The cyclists may be young, but many of them have already achieved dizzying levels of success. The team, D3Devo, is one of 10 teams featured in the USA CRITS Championship Series, one of the premier cycling series in the United States, which includes 10 races that traverse 10 states.

While the team’s initial success is certainly something to be proud of, Johnson is careful to keep the ultimate mission of his team in mind — to develop the riders into successful professionals, not simply rest on their immediate success.

The Philly Classic provides another opportunity for Johnson’s team of cyclists to grow and mature. After all, Johnson said, “[racing] against the best professionals” is the best way to develop into successful professionals.

This Sunday, Johnson’s D3Devo team hopes to do just that.

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