DERRY — Five Derry siblings are riding the road to success perched on the seat of a bicycle.
The Tveter family — Christopher, Elizabeth, Nicholas, Alexander and Madeleine — all love to ride and are winning big awards for their cycling talents.
Ranging in age from 10 to 19, they are all strong competitors, something instilled in them from their earliest years growing up in Holland. There, children typically get their first two-wheel bicycle by the time they are 2 years old.
Holly Tveter moved her children back to the United States after living in Holland for 18 years to offer them more cycling opportunities.
“Our children loved cycling at a very young age and entered the local bike races at holiday festivals,” she said. “Being that both parents are cyclists, all our children had their own bikes and even took two cars on vacation just to make sure the bikes could join us.”
The siblings compete and train regularly at the Northeast Velodrome and Cycling Park in Londonderry.
Eldest son Christopher has raced against Olympians and is internationally ranked.
The remaining four are involved in their own competition level races on the regional and national level through U.S. Cycling-sanctioned events.
Tveter grew up in Derry and said the move back was challenging.
“Packing the shipping container was also a challenge,” she said. “There wasn’t room for any furniture, just boxes of clothes and memories — and 24 bicycles.”
A bit of culture shock was part of the mix.
Most of the children are still learning to speak English; all are attending school in Derry. Christopher graduated from Pinkerton Academy earlier this year.
To help them feel at home, Tveter attached two pair of Dutch wooden shoes to the family’s small house on Beaver Lake. A goose roams the back yard. Tveter said in Holland they raised ducks.
Christopher is making a big mark on the international cycling scene and will represent the United States in European competition.
“It’s very relaxing,” he said. “It’s an adrenaline rush and you get to go very fast. It’s also a feeling of performing well in a race.”
The sport can be dangerous, something no mother likes to think about. Bikes can reach speeds of 45 mph in a typical race.
“I have witnessed crashes involving every one of my children,” Tveter said. “Their Dutch coach said that if a cyclist doesn’t have a broken bone by the time they are 18, then they aren’t trying hard enough.”
Tveter said her children have suffered broken limbs and collarbones, shoulder injuries and fractured ribs.
It’s also an expensive sport. Tveter said it’s difficult to finance the vast number of bikes needed for each child. Add in traveling, food costs, and getting school work done and it can be tough.
“It is difficult navigating the young cycling careers of five children,” she said. “I am worried about how I am going to afford new bikes. The kids’ bicycles cost more than my car.”
Along with cycling, the children are involved in other school sports and activities, including field hockey, soccer and even a chess club.
Alexander, 11, dreams of someday riding in the Tour de France with his brothers. At 14, Nicholas is a freshman at Pinkerton and once rode across the Netherlands to raise money for charity.
The girls have their own aspirations on the track. Madeleine, 10, is the baby of the family. After suffering injuries in a race, she climbed back on the bike to win a New England championship.
Elizabeth, 15, holds a New England title and was the last sibling to get involved in the sport. She plays on the field hockey team at Pinkerton.
The children are adjusting well, making friends, and finding their place at home and on the cycling track.
“They’re good kids, they stay out of trouble,” Tveter said. “It’s a family thing and I’m so lucky.”
She said Christopher sums it up when it comes to riding a bike.
“(His slogan is) ‘cycling ... it’s not just about winning, it’s a lifestyle choice,’” she said. “As long as the children want to ride I will do everything to make it possible.”,