My friends - of the many reasons we love our sport: wonderful memories, friends close as family, good health, and chief among them, the opportunity to swap racing tales and tell stories. To that end, I humbly submit the following story from my years riding and racing with the Spring City Cycling Club of Huntsville, Alabama, one of the oldest clubs in the Country, dating back to the 1890's. Through the 1980's and early 90's I was Club President, Rides Captain, Race Division Director, one of the leading endurance/distance riders in the region, and a bicycle shop owner. The story is about the early years of Jim Copeland, one of the more successful cyclists in the U.S.
The Racer and His Mom
His Mom was some kind of Hippie we’d heard - and worse, they were yankees. Moved down to Huntsville, Alabama from New York we’d heard. But we’d also heard from his high school coach, one of our Cat 2 racers and a well respected rides leader, that he was damned fast on the track team and had toasted everybody at the regional 5K race. He wanted to start riding with us – we’d heard.
He showed up at the East Clinton Street School ride on a cold Saturday morning riding a tank with a squeaky chain and 27” clincher wheels. But he had some sizable quad’s below his running shorts and nicely cut calves above his Adidas running shoes. He had potential. Over the following months he’d hang on through our warm up miles, grip the rear rider as long as he could when it started to ramp up, and inevitably drop off somewhere out in the County by himself to find his way back home alone. He always got home OK – we’d heard. "It’ll build character, teach him self reliance." "It’s a hard sport after all." The justifications just rolled right off the tongue, leaving a horrible taste behind. Yet he still kept showing up getting faster, stronger and lasting longer with each ride.
His dedication drove us to correct our pathetic behavior, we began advising, guiding and tutoring. He got a nice bike, some sweet tubulars (google it guys) and started dropping us like bad habits! The Diadora racing shoe was now definitely on the other foot. The next couple years he started winning USCF races as well as a brand new sport, Tri-Fed USA triathlons (sound familiar?).
His Mom began teaching all of us about proper diet, health foods, and how to peak with the right kind of foods before a race. She was so good at that, she opened a successful Heath Food Store with only all natural and organic products long before the Whole Foods founders were out of kindergarten. She was one of the few white women to march and protest with Martin Luther King, we’d heard. She sponsored our clubs’ century ride, the “All You Care To Eat Century”. No joke, that’s what it’s called to this day. Huge amounts of great food before, during and after the race – ahh oopps – I mean ride. Her son’s drive absolutely came from her, she became our Mom/Coach, guidance counselor and health authoritarian. She was tough as nails, but understanding. And her chastisements were always: “Quit crying and go train. Everything will look better after 80 miles, you’ll see." We recently lost her and one of our riders had this to say about her:
Wicked, and Wild
ACTIVIST is gone
To warn the afterlife
That Myrna is coming and
They Better Have
Their Shit Together.
You can find more on this amazing cycling Mom here.
Her son got so good, so fast, he was picked up by a regional semi-pro squad sponsored by a large bike shop chain – we’d heard. Still an amateur, he was accepted on to the US Road Team and competed at two – count’em – 2 Olympics. This time when “we’d heard,” we went to watch this phenomenal home town speed machine represent our country in our beloved sport.
Among all the things I’ve learned over the years of riding, one sticks firmly in the mush I call a brain, never ever underestimate a new rider, never drop them without help, and fund junior support programs as much as possible. Of all clubs, Violet Crown understands this and is familiar with the overwhelming pride when “Local Boy Does Good."
Among the list of incredible people I’m blessed to call friend, I count this guy among them. You can learn more about Jim Copeland and his racing highlights here on the Cycling Archives web site.