Any ride on Vermont roads has its share of hazards. When Linda Freeman picked up cycling four years ago, she found all of them.
“My first season—I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” Freeman said. It’s hard to enjoy time on the road when there are potholes and distracted drivers, not to mention the discomfort of riding a bike with a bad fit. She learned many things the hard way.
“Had I been discouraged in the beginning,” she said. “I would’ve missed the riding that I’m doing now, and it would’ve been such a loss.”
What Freeman’s doing now is leading a group of riders every Tuesday as part of Cycling 101, a program she created with Onion River Sports in Montpelier.
The program supports those picking up or returning to the sport as they train for endurance events like the Onion River Century (which is, technically, 111 miles) and the Kelly Brush Century Ride out of Middlebury.
“It is not competitive in that we are not trying to beat the person next to us,” said Freeman, a certified personal trainer and movement training specialist. “We are setting goals that are attainable—it doesn’t mean we don’t have to reach for them—but they are attainable.”
Freeman covers the principles of training, with rides of varying distances that include hill repeats, tempo training, intervals and recovery rides. Those training for a century will try to ride four to five times a week—one of those a long, slow distance ride to increase miles.
Freeman approached Onion River Sports last year with the idea for the program after participants in her spinning class at a local fitness club began asking how best to make the transition to the road.
Ann Rangaviz of Montpelier was one of those spinners. Returning to the road after a 30-year absence, she is now training for her first century, Kelly Brush in September, and is preparing to complete Onion River’s 110k metric century (68 miles) on July 27.
“There is a fear of being out on the road. Some of the Vermont roads are in really tough shape,” she said. “I’m in my mid 50s, so it’s getting over that trepidation of getting out on the road. You don’t want to get hurt.”
Rangaviz and Freeman were out riding last year when she ran over some debris that sliced her tire. Instead of feeling stranded, the pair was inundated with offers of help from those passing by from the cycling community.
“What was eye opening on that particular ride,” Rangaviz said, “was the huge camaraderie on the road.”
Cycling 101 fosters that connection.
Onion River sends out one of its expert riders for the no-drop Tuesday rides, and the shop is an endless source of information on bike maintenance and troubleshooting. In addition to a proposed training schedule, Freeman sends out weekly e-mails with tips and advice.
The program is best suited for riders who can handle at least 15 miles at a stretch and are looking to improve fitness and technique.
The goal-setting naturally follows.
“Linda is awesome,” Rangaviz said. “She really trains people to their ability, and makes people realize they can do more than they think they can.”
While there are many ways to train for a century, Freeman has found topping out her training at about 85 miles is adequate. While the goal is to complete the distance rather than race the course, she said riders look to beat their previous times and simply enjoy the event.
“We’ve really hit upon something here,” she said. “I believe we’re hosting 25–35 riders at a time. I think this is a group that is important to central Vermont, and it’s an extension of the work that Onion River Sports does.
“We feel the camaraderie of the cycling community we embody,” she said. “[We are] not the elite corner of it, but we want to be informed cyclists and progress in our skills.”