(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Arlington brothers Henry and Karl Neff spent last Saturday morning doing something that will sound unappealing to most: pedaling up a really steep in hill in Howard County, Maryland.
The two Williamsburg kids were riding in the Highway to Heaven Hill Climb Time Trial as cyclists on the National Capital Velo Club/United Healthcare team, the largest cycling club on the East Coast, according to the club’s site.
The time trial is an individual event, where each rider is trying to complete a course in the fastest time. What made Saturday’s race challenging is that the 0.8 mile-course is majorly uphill at an 18 percent grade.
Despite the hill’s steepness, the race was “not as bad as I thought it would be,” 9-year-old Henry said. He placed ninth in his age group, with a time of six minutes, 24.25 seconds.
For 12-year-old Karl, the race was easier than he expected, he said. His coaches told him it would be mostly uphill but there were more flat areas than he expected. He placed seventh in the 9-14 age group, with a time of 5 minutes, 49.45 seconds.
Karl has been cycling for three years, he said. Henry started last year, following in his brother’s footsteps.
“We first got into cycling because our mom biked to work,” Karl said.
Henry’s favorite part about cycling is winning, and he’s won a couple of races, he said. For Karl, it is the speed.
“The wind going past my face,” he said. “The accomplishment of how I went up this big hill.”
The two attend practices every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. where they learn different parts of racing. Some days they will work on drafting in the pack, sometimes they work on corners, Karl said.
During the school year, the boys fit in homework between school, practice and races. The cycling season can last until the middle of December and then picks up again March. The two spent this season racing all over Maryland and Virginia, competing in over 25 races, many during the school year.
Henry attends Drew Model School in the Montessori program. Karl attends Williamsburg Middle School, which lets out at 2:30 p.m., giving him around three hours to finish schoolwork before practice starts.
“I don’t have anything until 5:30 p.m. so that’s usually enough time to get my homework done,” Karl said.