RED BANK – After a quick run in the Tour de Fair Haven last August, Jonathan Erdelyi knew that his participation in this year’s race would involve a much deeper commitment.
“I raced in it last year, but it really was short-lived,” Erdelyi said. “It was a last-minute thing. I just sort of jumped in and it wasn’t really a focus of mine.”
This year, however, Erdelyi, owner of The Red Bicycle Studio at 27 West Front St., has put together a club team of cyclists that will be competing Sunday, Sept. 15, in the 2013 Tour de Fair Haven.
The team, which is comprised of customers, clients and other cyclists, will be participating in a number of the various categories. Erdelyi himself, a cyclist for 25 years, will be competing in the Pro 1-2 race, which involves the professional-level cyclists and is the longest distance at 34 miles.
“I’ve been training throughout the summer, but I started racing about a month ago,” Erdelyi said. “We’ll have people on the club team in category 5 and category 4. Because there is no better word for it, I’m the only elite rider on the team so I’m in the 1-2 race.
“It’s a grassroots program. People have come in and ask how to get into cycling, and this is a good way to do it. We can set them up with a bike, give them a jersey and they’re good to go. This is what I wanted to be a part of, as opposed to just jumping onto an elite team.”
Erdelyi said owning a bike shop and giving customers and clients an opportunity to get into racing was “self-rewarding.”
“My marketing is people wearing my jersey,” Erdelyi said. “It’s a big snowball effect from there. It’s really nice to have the bike shop affiliated with a team. Of all the bike shops in New Jersey, there are only 10 or so to have a team affiliated with them and we’re one of them.”
Erdelyi said The Red Bicycle Studio, which has been at West Front Street for a year-and-a-half, is an ideal place to run a club bike team out of and hopes that it progresses in the future.
“In the perfect world, this would be a large club that is committed to the bike shop. Every bike shop has a different feel and a different vibe. We want to create something that people can believe in.”
Even though it is the first time that Erdelyi’s club team is racing in the Tour de Fair Haven, he would still like to see it succeed in the race.
“If we can go out and win the race, by all means, we’d like to do that,” Erdelyi said. “It would also be nice to place in the money. There are 25 places for money prizes, but we’re talking about the best cyclists in the tristate area that will be here, let alone the entire country. It’s going to be a good showing.”
Erdelyi, who started cycling when he was 7 years old, said he fell in love with the sport instantly.
“Street sprints in 1988,” Erdelyi recalls of his beginnings in cycling. “It was just 200-meter street sprints down the hill. That’s where it all started for me.”
Erdelyi, 32, who had spent years as a professional cyclist, said he would be interested in returning to the professional ranks, just not at the moment.
“Sure, I’d like to go back to be a pro, but my life isn’t there right now,” Erdelyi said. “If I could get a small professional team out of this bike shop and pick out races between February and October, I’d absolutely do it, no question.”
But, in order to get that professional team, The Red Bicycle Studio team would need one thing: big sponsorship.
“Cycling is all about sponsorship,” Erdelyi said. “It’s all about getting someone to believe in what you do. It’s no different than Coke, Pepsi, Verizon – any Fortune 500 company out there. Sports are all about those sponsorships and cycling is no different.”
The Tour de Fair Haven has six categories for racers, based on experience and age. Category 5 with a 7 a.m. start is 9 miles. Category 3-4 Men is 17 miles; Masters Men, for those over the age of 45, is 20 miles; Women’s Category (1, 2, 3, 4) is 17 miles; Masters Men for those older than 35 is 24 miles; and Pro 1-2 is 34 miles.
Registration for the race ends on Friday, Sept. 13, and can be completed at www.tourdefairhaven.com.