Local cycling club leads nationwide bike challenge
Published: Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 7:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 7:43 p.m.
The Gainesville Cycling Club is soaring ahead of the competition in the National Bike Challenge, a nationwide cycling event in which riders earn points for each mile they log.
“We have never given up our No. 1 position,” GCC Vice President Ally Gill said. Gill, 50, said the group has been in first place since the event started on May 1.
Riders who bike for recreation, transportation and racing are all invited to participate in the National Bike Challenge. The contest, which continues until Sept. 30, is open to individuals as well as communities of bikers. Participants receive points for each mile they log. The group with most points by the end of September wins a commemorative plaque and as well as “bragging rights,” Gill said. Individual bikers’ names are also submitted into a lottery to win prizes such as water bottles, jerseys and bikes.
“The key to amassing a lot of points is trying to ride every day,” Gill said. She added that the competition is a good way to get people of all skill levels and abilities to become encouraged to get on a bike.
GCC now ranks No. 1 with the most points earned for the event out of more than 1,700 teams in America.
Gill, who bikes nearly 10 miles to and from work each day (rain or shine), said roughly 10 percent of GCC’s members, estimated around 1,100, are participating in the event.
President Jayson O’Mahoney said GCC’s success may be due to the club’s large number of members.
“Compared to other teams in the country, we have a quite a sizable team,” he said.
O’Mahoney, 42, said he ranks in the top 20 bikers in the nation. In the month of May alone, O’Mahoney said he rode 1,480 miles.
“I try to use my bike for everything,” he said.
The National Bike Challenge is hosted by the League of American Bicyclists, an organization that promotes safe cycling and bicycle-friendly communities. The league was originally founded in 1880 as the League of American Wheelmen.
The competition is free and organized primarily online. Last year, in the competition’s debut, more than 30,000 bikers logged more than 10 million miles.
Gill said she is confident that GCC will walk away with the title. If the club does win, Gill said the members have plans to use the victory to help support their efforts to advocate for more bike infrastructure to local county, city and state government officials.
“We want to use this as an advocacy opportunity to completely blow everybody out of the water with our dedication to the cause,” Gill said.
O’Mahoney said he does not want to speak too soon about taking the title, but agrees that the cause is a great opportunity to advocate for increased infrastructure and better health.
“If you are in good shape through cycling or running or whatever you do, you are going to live longer and feel better,” O’Mahoney said.