Story and photos by Darl Devault, Feature Writer
Seniors athletes have reached a point in their lives where they are resilient and persistent. Because of early morning fog those were certainly the watchwords for the recent Oklahoma Senior Games cycling events October 10 held at Lake Stanley Draper October.
Athletes train to peak for big events. A resilient athlete is tested when they need to train through a date they have set on their calendar to again attempt a peak performance a month later. The whole series of statewide events that make up the Oklahoma Senior Games were pushed back a full month because of concerns over COVID-19.
The 60 senior cyclists who gathered the morning of the event displayed even more persistence and resilience as they waited through a two-hour fog delay before starting their events. (Story continues below)
For athletes who got up early to eat properly to begin racing at 8 a.m., this two-hour delay made it even tougher to perform at their best.
One new-to-the-Senior-Games racer made all the right adjustments. Terri Stadler went pedal stroke to pedal stroke over the hilly terrain with the men to win the 44K road race women’s division. The Edmond resident showed she is a well-conditioned and experienced racer. She dominated her new 60-64 age range to stay in the lead pack until the final sprint with male racers from many adjoining states.
Many of the cyclists who started in a mass start travelled from out of state to qualify for the November 5-18, 2021 National Senior Games to be presented by Humana in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The 50 and over bicycle racers were hoping to place first through fourth place at this year’s games so they could qualify for those Nationals.
“Oklahoma offers many of these of riders racing today a chance to qualify for nationals because several states have cancelled their events because of the concerns of COVID 19,” said Kathleen Fitzgerald, OSG state director. “It is surprising at first, how far they will travel to qualify for nationals, until you talk to them. Then you realize these are really competitive older folks who want to stay fit year-round as cyclists.”
The 22K and 44K road races drew the most contestants at Draper, while the 5K and 10K time trial events also saw many of the same road racers participate.
For the time trials, many rode expensive specialty time trial bikes. They began their race against the clock in one-minute intervals. Starting order was from youngest to oldest starting with males and ending with females.
The events observed U.S.A Cycling rules. The races went off without any wrecks or mishaps throughout the day.
In the time trial events, riders were not allowed to draft (take pace behind another rider) closer than 25 meters ahead, or two meters to the side. If anyone had broken this rule, they would have received a time penalty.
Both road race distances and the two time trail distances offered dual opportunity for qualifying for nationals. Again, qualifying in any event at the 2020 event earned the athletes the right to compete at Nationals in 2021.
The Games this year provide 27 sports venues, some with variations, which offer athletic training opportunities and social interaction. Along with the competitions, the Games supply healthy lifestyle educational information for seniors.
In a recent article published by the Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health online, bicycling is described as providing important physical benefits. First, it is an aerobic workout, which for seniors is the heart of any health plan, pun intended. Cycling, therefore, is good for their heart, brain and blood vessels.
Cycling is easy on joints, Dr. Safran Norton says in the article. He says that unlike walking, cycling is good for anyone with joint paint or age-related stiffness.
Bicyclists use their largest muscle group, the legs, which helps them build muscle while toning other muscles needed to keep them balanced and steer the bicycle.
These benefits carry over into everyday activities while helping cyclists build bone density, says Dr. Norton.
Greater Fort Lauderdale, Florida will host the 2021 National Senior Games, the largest multi-sport championship event in the world for adults 50 and over. More than 10,000 qualified athletes, accompanied by an estimated 15,000 visitors, are expected to compete in 20 medal sports in 2021.
The National Senior Games, begun in 1987, has 54 affiliated qualifying member games in North America promoting wellness and active, healthy lifestyles for older adults.
The Oklahoma Senior Games grew to more than 1,000 50+ athletes last year. Two Native American nations joined sponsors to help to conduct the many activities needed to allow the Games to run smoothly September through October. The Chickasaw and Cherokee Nations are underwriting the Games for the first time in 2020.
The Games promote healthy lifestyles for seniors through education, fitness with the spirited competition of sports and recreational games. This goes along with inspiring everyone to embrace health while enjoying the value of sports related exercise.