2022 Cyclo-Vets Past and Current Presidents (from left): Julie Hamilton, Don Danner, Jeff Clark,
2021 Cyclo-Vets Past and Current Presidents (from left): Wally Millar, John Stellenwerf, Brent Evens, Jeff Clark, Julie Hamilton,
Gary DeVoss, Don Danner, Sherry Newsham
Greg Birch -1984
Mike Schnorr - 1985, 1986
Arnie Baker - 1987, 1988, 1989
Richard Ribly/Arnie Baker - 1990
Wally Millar/Arnie Baker - 1991
Gary De Voss - 1992, 1993
Marty Rose - 1994
Ross Nicholson - 1995
David Pain - 1996
Pete Penseyres - 1997
Greg Levorchick/Pete Penseyres - 1998
Joey Valdivia - 1999
Joey Valdivia - 2000
Tim Dunnigan - 2001
Don Peters - 2002, 2003
Adrienne Brian - 2004, 2005
Kevin Gilbert - 2006
Julie Hamilton - 2007
Buss Burnett - 2008, 2009
Howard King - 2010
Sherry Newsham - 2011
Gary De Voss 2012
Bud Stratton - 2013
Jacobo Melcer - 2014
Brent Evans 2015, 2016
Jason Stratton - 2017
John Stellenwerf - 2018
Jeff Clark - 2019
Jeff Clark - 2020
Don Danner - 2021, 2022
The San Diego Cyclo-Vets, America's most successful masters cycling club, celebrates a milestone.
The Cyclo-Vets, which started with 20 members in 1981 and is now more than 300 strong, has produced more than 100 national and international Masters road racing champions. That's more Masters age-group national champions than any other bicycling club in the U.S.
How does this club do it? The regular sunshine and cycling-friendly nature of San Diego explains part of the club's success.
But those factors don't account for Dr. Arnie Baker, 52, and his training expertise. Baker is a United States Cycling Federation racer, five-time national champion and licensed USCF coach as well as national coach for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America's Team In Training.
With Baker as its secret weapon, the Cyclo-Vets has made a habit of plucking riders from obscurity, introducing them to Baker's training and then turning them into accomplished, if not always elite riders - no matter their age, nationality, skill level or gender.
Other prominent members of the club are Jimena Florit, a professional mountain biker, a two-time Olympian for Argentina and the 2003 gold medalist at the Pan American Games; Haze Thompson, 2005's GeezerJock of the Year for women 60-69; and Masters cycling legend Gordon Shields, 87.
But perhaps no one exemplifies the spirit of the Cyclo-Vets more than Margaret Nolan. One month after she passed away in July 2002 at the age of 73 from colon cancer there was a "celebration of life" held in her memory in the lush Redwood Circle area of San Diego's Balboa Park.
"Margaret was the perfect example of what Cyclo-Vets is all about," said Dr. Gary DeVoss, a national racing champion originally from Ohio and the club's creator. "Here is a woman who was working for the phone company who had basically never done a lick of exercise in her life."
Like Nolan, Arnie Baker was a bit of a latecomer to cycling. A casual bike rider most of his life, Baker was 32 when he met DeVoss at a local bicycle store and was basically talked into becoming a Cyclo-Vet. As he would become for hundreds of cyclists, amateur and professional, Baker became Nolan's mentor.
At the time Baker took Nolan under his wing, he was already winning age-division races on a regular basis. And by the time Nolan's career ended she was known in cycling circles as a top racer. Nolan retired a six-time national champion. She rode until she was too ill to do so.
"Margaret set everybody on fire and became a nationally recognized rider," DeVoss said. "She was phenomenal."
In 1996, DeVoss, then 52, and Nolan teamed up to win the national 110+ (combined ages of riders) mixed tandem 40K time trial championship. They won it less than two hours after Nolan had taken first place in her age-group's individual time trial race.
"Margaret epitomizes the average person Cyclo-Vets represents," said DeVoss, who rides 200 to 300 miles a week. "We welcome people and we are proud to be middle-aged or older. This is a club that supports 100 percent of the people coming in. We offer an opportunity for people who maybe just ride recreationally to reach their full potential.
"We do everything we can to help you because you never know how good you can be. We encourage and have a platform for people who need a little nudge. And we will continue to (make) champions." The club's annual Omnium in June, which attracts racers from all around the United States, includes the "Margaret Nolan TT Challenge," a 10-mile race in San Diego.
Cyclo-Vets offers its members scheduled, specialized rides five days a week, mostly in the morning. Some rides test endurance, covering long distances (up to 100 miles) on the road. Others feature hill climbing.
And still others are held in one specific area for more competitive time trial training.
One of the leaders of the club's Tuesday morning time trial training is the inimitable Gordon Shields, nothing less than a Southern California bicycling icon. Born in Massachusetts, Shields, a grand-- father with personalized "SR CYCLR" license plates on his car, has spent more than 30 years as an advocate of biking in San Diego.
A retired high school and college teacher, he owns three individual national time trial records. A Cyclo-Vet since 1985, Shields rides about 500 miles a month and estimates that he put in 7,000 miles last year.
Just south of San Diego, a bridge crosses a span of the Sweetwater River. It's called "Gordy Shields Bridge." Shields laughs that the city of San Diego dedicated the bridge to him - while he is still alive. The bridge is a part of the Bayshore Bikeway, a five-city, 24-mile route around San Diego Bay, strictly for pedestrians and cyclists, a bikeway Shields championed since its inception in the 1970s.
"I've gotten back from cycling more than I've put into it," Shields said. "Cyclo-Vets is a great group. ... All these different people who come together for the love of riding." The vibrant Shields has probably tooled along every possible road in San Diego County - as well as ridden across the country. "We have winning Masters riders starting at (age) 30-over up to (my age), and I'm probably the oldest living Masters cycler around. We have ex-triathletes, runners, people who never rode (a
bike) a day in their life."
Mission Hills is a quiet neighborhood in San Diego filled with historic homes and breathtaking views. Arnie Baker, a native of Canada, and his wife, Gero McGuffin, a spirited Irish woman, live here.
Retired for 13 years from being a practicing physician, Baker is a cycling guru, attracting Olympians and new riders alike. Twice a week in the evening a whirring sound rises from the front of Baker's Mission-style home. The steady buzz is interrupted every few seconds as Baker shouts an interval number or a bit of encouragement.
The sound comes from stationary bikes - or "trainers" - that cyclists have hooked up on wood blocks and from floor fans cooling all 25 riders.
Computers hooked up to the cycles record time, heart rate, watts, calories and cadence, to be studied and analyzed after the workouts.
These diehards are being put through an intense set of exercises and paces by Baker as a part of a two-hour interval training session. The session, part of a three-month "high intensity training" program, is similar to spin classes but far more individualized. Most who attend are Cyclo-Vets members.
After the Tuesday night session, cyclists take off their shoes and get comfy in Baker and McGuffin's spacious living room. In a personal touch that strikes a chord with most of these hard-core spinners, a home-- made meal for the cyclists is offered to replenish the riders'
A Baker-led presentation picks apart the workout. On a Tuesday night session in February, pro rider Florit, the Argentinean who moved to San Diego in 1999, asks pointed questions. Though younger than most present, the 33-year-old is a Cyclo-Vets coach. "I don't know where I would be without Arnie," Florit said. "When I came to town I didn't know anybody but him and Gero. I stayed at his house for a week. He taught me how to open up a bank account, basically how to put my life together."
Baker also leads challenging road rides several times a week. On Wednesdays and Sundays, he leads cyclists from a park near his home, picking up riders along the route, for a trip that goes 90 miles. Some riders go for the entire excursion, others just do part of the ride.
These rides are set up to train for races and include tactical exercises, regrouping points and professional coaching. Other coaches lead other rides for the Cyclo-Vets, whose members are as varied as the terrain upon which they ride.
There's 72-year-old Chuck Gilbert, and his son, Kevin, 51, the current president of the club. Gilbert started cycling when he was in his late 50s, met Shields when both were riding in one of San Diego County's more rural areas, and joined Cyclo-Vets soon after. "It's a family," said the elder Gilbert, who rides 200 miles a week. "As big as it's gotten, we are a family. These are people of all ages who really care about each other, and we are inclusive, not exclusive."
Dr. Lan Tran, a 54-year-old dentist born in Vietnam, met Baker through the Team In Training program. Tran is now a fullfledged Cyclo-Vet. She credits Baker with teaching her how to cycle. "Cycling is something you can do for a lifetime," Tran said. "And Cyclo-Vets exposes me to all levels of riders who are (also training). But what I really like is the camaraderie. Everybody helps everybody. And with their help, I was able to reach my goal last year at the El Tour de Tucson."
And there's Dr. Bill Wilson, who knew DeVoss professionally. DeVoss suggested that Wilson join Cyclo-Vets. When Wilson decided to ride 60 miles for his 60th birth-- day and after finishing the ride exhausted and frustrated, he signed right up. "In four and a half years I've gone from thinking of a 20-mile ride as a good work-- out to doing a Sunday ride that is 90 miles and has 7,000 feet of climbing," Wilson said. "I am so thrilled. I have a high-stress job and it helps to ride. I'm a much nicer person because of Cyclo-Vets."
And there's Thompson, the GeezerJock of the Year who met Baker at one of his annual "Near Death Experience" training camps with her husband David (also a Cyclo-Vet). She has become a nation-- al champion. The Thompsons, who live in northern California, will travel to the World Masters Championships in Austria this August. "It's friendship and wonderful people," Thompson said of the Cyclo-Vets. "David and I joined just so we could train with Arnie and race on their Masters team.
There's a reason it's one of the most successful cycling clubs."
Karen Pearlman, a writer who lives in San Diego, wrote this article and published it on the Bike Forums website on April 28, 2006. It provides a snapshot into the rich history of the San Diego Cyclo-Vets Bicycle Club.