A group of nine cyclists rounded a turn off Americana Boulevard onto the Boise Greenbelt with the precision of an elite racing team.
The road cyclists were inches from each other and moved in formation like a swarm of bees.
They are members of B.Y.R.D.S. (Boise Young Rider Development Squad), a nonprofit Treasure Valley organization founded in 2002 that's dedicated to supporting local boys and girls.
"It's a fun group to be with when you're riding," said Will Barta, a Boise High School senior, who has been with B.Y.R.D.S. since he was 11 years old. He led the group on a recent ride.
Through his training with the group, Barta has grown from a novice cyclist to a member of the U.S. Junior National World Team where he has competed in Europe, to which he will soon return.
When he was 11, he participated in the Bogus Basin Hill Climb with the group and rode to the top in 2 hours. Last August, he won the race in 54 minutes.
"It took me a while," said Barta of his journey from novice to top competitor. "I raced four years before getting up on the podium."
He said B.Y.R.D.S helped him grow in cycling, and he credits his success to the group's founder and coach, Douglas Tobin.
Tobin started the program after seeing young cyclists attend local training rides on one or two occasions and not show up again.
He wanted to provide a consistent program for youths to learn about competitive and non-competitive cycling. Youths also learn about trail and road etiquette and about equipment and safety.
They train during structured weekly rides. You may see them on Boise's streets and trails in orange, yellow and black cycling clothes with the initials B.Y.R.D.S.
The group's success doesn't go unnoticed. It was recognized this month as a "Center of Excellence" by USA Cycling, the governing body for cycling in the United States. It's the second time the group has received the award.
"We notice kids in the B.Y.R.D.S. program gain a lot of confidence and independence by learning to cycle in an organized format," Tobin said. "Additionally, we notice that the kids develop strong relations with their peers and work together to take on new challenges, whether it be riding longer distances, or more technical terrain, riding and exploring new places, as well as setting goals to improve their abilities."
Competitive riders in the B.Y.R.D.S. program have earned 20 national championship titles, multiple international awards and titles, and several have represented the United States as a member of the USA National Team, including World Championships.
Members have gone on to college and continued to race for their school, or for fitness.
"We have several that have competed at the national and international level and several now compete at the pro and top amateur level," Tobin said.
Besides learning a lifetime sport, youths in B.Y.R.D.S. also develop an appreciation for other outdoor activities, such as skiing, hiking and camping.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445