I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a kid. I loved my Schwinn and had ridden the neighborhood and the wood trails often with my friends growing up. I reconnected with cycling after moving here to Marlton. My second daughter was about 8 months old and it was time to refocus some energy on myself. I saw a group of people ride by on road bikes in light blue with Team Evesham on the back of their jerseys and it inspired me to go to the bike shop and purchase a bike with no intention of ever riding in a group. Like many others, I was intimidated walking into a bike shop not knowing much about all the different options I had in front of me. I instantly lusted after the titanium and carbon bikes, however the guy at that shop steered me towards an aluminum alloy triple gear to get me started. His words still stick with me “Enjoy the ride…this can become an addiction”.
I rode on my own for awhile and again saw a sea of light blue jerseys out on the road one day. I decided to take advantage of the wonders of the Internet and looked up Team Evesham, only to discover it was a local cycling club accepting of people of all riding capability. I sent an email to the team Captain Sandy Student who promptly called me and encouraged me to come out for a ride on an August Sunday morning. I showed up having never ridden in a group before and Dave Bennis gladly had me join his C ride. Dave really spent time teaching me different things along the way, regarding safety and how to navigate in a group. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to join Team Evesham for the MS City To Shore event a few weeks later, unsure if I could complete the 75+ mile ride but determined to do so.
I showed up for the MS ride and kept telling myself “you can do this, just stay in the same gear the whole way and keep your left foot unclipped so you don’t fall”. I rode along essentially on my own donning the Team Evesham jersey, eventually connecting with Ravi where we encouraged one another to keep going along with the inspiration of cheers in the sidelines by people living with MS and their families. As we approached Ocean City a booming voice came from behind and it was Sandy. I told him I was unsure about being able to cross the bridge and he smiled and said “yes you will. I will stay with you”. He coached me through shifting my gears and I climbed that bridge to the very top as he warned “get ready for the descent” as I hit 28 mph! I teared up as I crossed the finish line that day, proud of the fundraising I had done for MS, mesmerized that I had ridden my bike so far and thankful for being a part of such a great team.
Fast forward and I’ve set new goals for myself. I became a ride leader, on the nomination and encouragement of my C ride leader and mentor Dave Bennis. I’ve led rides with some of the best who have taught me to be a better rider and frankly a lot about myself, Michael Gibbs, Andre Raspanti and Kevin Comber to name a few. I’ve met countless people and we have experienced life on two wheels together whom I now consider close friends and have relished in their achievements and all the laughs along the way. Moments like helping Marianne cross the bridge at the MS ride a year after my own milestone, celebrating Lori Sobin’s first “A” ride, Michael Vindick pushing me to sign up for a duathlon, good fun with the 5am Morning Maniacs (Charlie Cook, Nadine Cottle, Scott Kasper, Jason Gallagher…), those “A” riders, Scott Santos, Jimmy Sweet and James Baliko pulling me along and hanging back when I needed to, Kelly McGratten for his beaming smile and willingness to pull, and countless others along the way.
I’ve come to appreciate that every ride with Team Evesham is a journey, an achievement, a moment for us to connect with nature and with one another. Every ride is an opportunity to push ourselves, physically and mentally; to escape, to be a kid again, to experience the freedom of being on a bike simply exploring the world, celebrating with your friends, your teammates and realizing you are making a difference in others lives, and not just through the fundraising we’ve done for charity. I love the camaraderie, the banter, the laughs and the chapters we are writing together as we build our story as friends…as Team Evesham. See you on the road!