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The couple that bikes together, stays together

March 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM

The State Journal-Register

Even when couples have similar interests, it can be a challenge to spend time together.

Derek and Brigitta Ewing have taken their own creative solution and parlayed it into the Springfield Bicycle Club’s Cycling Challenge, a series of five events — each with rides of varying distances.

The first event is April 29.

“The Springfield Bicycle Club Cycling Challenge was designed to bring the Springfield area cycling community together with a series of five-day events spread throughout the summer season,” Derek says. “You do not have to be a avid cyclist to participate.”

Derek says he has become increasingly interested in challenge races — also called “Fondos,” or “Sportives.”

“My husband has raced bicycles since he was a teenager,” Brigitta says. “When he goes for a bike ride, he may go 50 to 100 miles, and he’s done that already this spring.

“But when I go for a bike ride it is (for shorter distances and) closer to five to 10 miles an hour.”

Therein lies the challenge.

“We have been married forever,” Brigitta says. “If you are going to be a non-rider that means the two of you are going to spend a lot of time apart. So I started riding because that way he wasn’t gone so many hours. We were gone together.”

So they planned their rides and found a way to accommodate each other.

“For the longest time we could go for a ride and as long as he was planning to go twice as many miles, we would get back at about the same time,” Brigitta says.

Derek says the Challenge pushes riders to improve themselves over time.

“Many of this past year’s participants are expressing interest in riding the longer distances offered and have increased their training routines already,” he says. “My hopes are to see the Challenge grow even larger with rider participation and maybe even additional rides.”

More than 100 people participated in each of the first four events in 2011.

Those rides are considered to be “unsupported” because there is no food or other support that is offered at the Capital City Century, the fifth and last event in the Challenge.

“That’s why we can offer those for free,” Brigitta says. “Bring your money and cell phone since there is no ‘sag wagon’ to pick you up. And bring a friend that rides like you do.”

Tom Clark, president of the bicycle club, says the Ewings have made significant contributions to the local cycling community beyond the Challenge.

Brigitta received the SBC’s lifetime achievement prize, the 2011 NoBell Award,” Clark says. “Derek received the 1996 NoBell. This was the first time in club history that two members won separate NoBells while being married.”

After all those years and miles, the Ewings are still up to the challenge.

“Last year we received an email form the club saying, ‘We need to grow. Got any ideas?’”

Not long afterward, the SBC Cycling Challenge was born.

In 2011, about half of the participants earned medals for their efforts, including anyone who completes all the rides at the shorter distance — about 125 miles in all.

“For someone just getting started, the challenge is doing them all,” Brigitta says.

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.

SBC Cycling Challenge

Three ride categories: century, half-century and quarter-century (100, 50 and 25 miles)

Dates: April 29, May 20, July 22, Aug. 26 and Sept. 9

There is no charge to participate in the first four events. The fifth event is the Capital City Century to be held Sept. 9.



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