When Jennifer Cvar was a healthy kid growing up in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Indianapolis, she loved the feeling of the wind in her air when she rode her bike.
She also loved the independence her bike gave her, taking her to Broad Ripple with a friend or around the trails behind the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Fast forward a few years: While Jennifer was working at her first job after college, she started taking spin classes at the YMCA at the Athenaeum
. There she met a group of mostly male cyclists who invited her to join their group rides. Enjoying the rides but initially frustrated because she always brought up the rear, Jennifer worked to build her stamina and strength. Before long, she not only was hanging with the guys but moving toward the front.
Her tenacity and talent didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, it earned her an invitation from Nebo Ridge Bike Shop owner Tim Casady to join the shop’s racing team, Team Nebo Ridge, a USA Cycling-sanctioned team. Although she had only been riding a couple of years, in 2009 Jennifer competed in her first crit, launching a four-year journey that would include a second-place finish in the 2011 Mass Ave Crit and two second-place finishes at the Gateway Cup in 2010.
“What always stood out to me is how much exhilaration, fun and enthusiasm Jenn had,” said Casady. “She was on podiums, but I think she realized early that she wasn’t crazy enough to compete at that level for long.”
Nebo Ridge teammate Wayde Klein says. “I remember the classes at the Y with her, her first bike, first race and more. She is and was an extremely gifted rider. When she competed, she took no prisoners. When she was off the bike she was, and still is, one the kindest people I have ever known.”
In Jennifer's four years of amateur racing, competing in crits in St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati and other cities, she started wondering, “Why can’t Indy have one of these urban races?”
In short order, it did. Jennifer and Klein organized the Indy Crit in 2010.
For the first few years, Freewheelin’ Community Bikes, a nonprofit connecting youth with skills for life through a shared passion for bicycles, was the fiscal agent and the event served as its biggest fundraiser. In 2017, the Indy Crit became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. In 2019, the Mass Ave Crit, founded by NUVO’s Kevin McKinney, merged with the Indy Crit to create a weekend event that includes kids’ activities, a free community ride honoring Major Taylor, and more. With IU Health as title sponsor, the weekend is now called IU Health Momentum Indy, and one of its races, the Mass Ave Crit, is a part of a national 10-race series, the American Criterium Cup.
“Jenn was a force of nature. Once she decided something was going to happen it did,” Klein, who moved back to his native Texas after the first Indy Crit, recalls. “Starting the Indy Crit was so obvious to her. It was never ‘If.’ It was always ‘When.’”
Cvar continues to thrive in a male-dominated industry, serving as the only female founder/manager in the American Cup Series, which she also helped to found.
IU Health Goals
Her goals for IU Health Momentum Indy include not only attracting more spectators to the events, but also building interest in the sport of cycling – a sport she not only promotes but in which she still actively participates. Cvar stopped racing competitively in 2012 to start a family, but she still rides competitively on the local group rides, averaging 100+ miles a week on the bike. Of course, as a wife and mom of two young daughters, she also enjoys riding with her family … and helping her kids discover the joy of cycling that she found back on the streets in and around Forest Hills.
BY THE NUMBERS
$35,000 - Prize Purse for the IU Health Momentum Indy
$100,000 - Prize Purse for the American Criterium Cup series
800 - Athletes (60% from out of town)
350 - Volunteers
$180,000 - Proceeds donated to Indy nonprofits supporting youth development, workforce development, and health and wellness.