Frustrated Cyclists Criticize Cancellation

Resigning Of Event's Chairperson Is Blamed

Harford Seniors In Stride/state Olympics 1991

October 06, 1991|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff writer

When the letter arrived at Tom Coyle's house two weeks ago cancelingthe cycling competition in next weekend's Maryland Senior Olympics, it put the finishing touch on a frustrating summer.

"I was shockedwhen I opened that letter. I could hardly believe it," said Coyle, an Aberdeen resident who had already missed out on the Cycle Across Maryland Tour because of a broken elbow.

The letter, from Robert G. Zeigler, chairman of the Maryland Senior Olympics Commission, said "Due to coordination problems beyond ourcontrol, the cycling events scheduled for this year will be canceled."

Missing out on the Senior Olympics is more frustrating than missing the CAM Tour, said Coyle, who broke his elbow just after returning from the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic in Syracuse June 18-July 3.

After recovering from the injury, Coyle trained hard for the 2K, 5K and 10K races that had been scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Lake Montebello.

"I was very disappointed that (the letter) did not give an excuse. If they had given a reason, the cyclists may not appreciate it or understand it, but at least they'd have somethingto vent their anger or displeasure toward."

Coyle said he and other riders feared the cancellation might be a recurring problem. With next year's state senior games serving as a qualifier for the nationals in Baton Rouge, La., in 1993, Coyle said he wanted to make sure cyclists would have a chance to qualify.

Zeigler assured bikers thatthe cancellation should not happen again. This is the first time an event has been canceled for reasons other than weather in the 12-yearhistory of the Maryland Senior Olympics, said Zeigler.

"It's justamazing to me that this has never happened before," said Dorry Bielecki, Harford County's representative to the MSOC, another disappointed cyclist. "There's so much work, and no one gets paid to do it. It'sjust incredible to me that everything has gone so well for so long."

The Maryland Senior Olympics Commission was forced to cancel cycling this year because the chairperson of the event had dropped out, and the commission members were unaware of it.

Zeigler explained that in February, a member of a Baltimore cycling club agreed to chair the event. Zeigler declined to name the person.

When the person did not show up for a couple of planning meetings, the MSOC tracked himdown in early September. The chairman said he had called Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the major sponsor of the games, to say he couldn't handle the job. Word never reached the MSOC.

"At that time, we still needed police security, we needed a permit for the road, we'd have had to set up communications and medical supervision -- the whole nine yards which should have been done over the last nine months," said Zeigler. "There was no way, I feel, we could have safely conducted this event."

Cyclists were allowed to register for other sports. Coyle declined, because he hadn't trained for any other sport.

Next year, Zeigler said, the MSOC will keep a closer eye on the event chairmen. Although he understood how disappointed the riders were, Zeiglersaid cyclists should understand how difficult it can be to run an event with volunteer help.

"A lot of people just show up and ride orshow up and run. They don't understand what goes into it, what we gothrough to make it safe. You just can't go down there with one or two people and conduct an event."

Coyle says he understands. He and his wife, Marian, volunteer periodically to help with RASAC road and track racing.

"No question it takes a lot of work, and we owe the volunteers a debt of gratitude, but it was just a shame this had to happen," Coyle said.

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