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Eighteen Forever

by Ron Cassie

Richmond’s Greg Guinther celebrated his 57th birthday last season by completing all 18 of the multi-sport events he entered

Greg Guinther

After Greg Guinther won the 55-59 age group last September at the Patriot’s Half triathlon in Williamsburg, Va., he ended up in the medical tent hooked up to an I.V. to recover from a bout of dehydration.

“It was a really hot day and I had to deal with some cramping on the run. It wasn’t a big deal,” Guinther recently told SPOKES. “I had belly full of water that my body just hadn’t processed yet. [Virginia Triathlon Series founder] Greg Hawkins started laughing when he saw me.”

Certainly Hawkins wouldn’t have been chuckling if Guinther, an experienced triathlete with three-plus decades of racing under his belt, had been in any real trouble. Actually, the reason he was laughing was that he knew Guinther would be back the very next day to race the Patriot’s Sprint tri at the same venue.

Guinther, whose race age is 59 this year, took in fourth in his age group in sprint.

Not bad resiliency for someone pushing 60.

A few weeks later, he completed another weekend double at Giant Acorn Sprint and Giant Acorn International at Lake Anna State Park, successfully finishing all 18 races in the Virginia Triathlon Series in one season. In fact, he is the first person to do so.

“I told myself that as long as I could get out of bed in the morning, I was going to keep going,” Guinther says.

As a life-long athlete, Guinther says he recognized that he needs a new challenge from time to time. He’d raced in most of the Virginia Triathlon Series venues in the past and approached Hawkins before the start of last season with his “18 for 18” scheme.

“The first thing I asked him was, ‘Has anybody done this before?’ When he said no one had—that’s when the challenge really began.”

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Greenbrier’s Hill-less River Trail

By Jeffrey Heil

Last fall, wanting a long ride before the weather turned cold, I headed to West Virginia’s Greenbrier River Trail (GRT).  I have always found driving in West Virginia to be challenging, but it is always worth the climbs and twisting roads.  This trip was no different.  

The GRT is part of the State’s park system and runs 80 miles between towns of Cass and Lewisburg, West Virginia.  For all practical purposes, this is a flat trail with just over 700 feet of elevation change from end-to-end.  During my ride, I wondered why my drive involved so much climbing to get to such a flat trail.  The trail’s surface is mostly packed gravel and provides relatively easy cycling.

I left my car in Lewisburg and used a shuttle service offered by Free Spirit Adventures (www.freespiritadventures.com) to take me to Cass to start my ride south.  While several shuttle services are available, Free Spirit seemed to best accommodate my needs and schedule.  In addition to the trailhead, the town of Cass is also home to the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park.  Here you can embrace the town’s logging history by riding a steam driven logging train up into the mountains.  

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Episcopal Bishop Charged In Fatal Hit & Run

by Ron Cassie


Bishop Cook

Popular bike builder Tom Palermo, a married father of two, was killed two days after Christmas.

It wasn’t the way anyone wanted to spend New Year’s Day.

The first day on the calendar is normally reserved for football and family, but this past New Year’s Day drew more than 1,000 bicyclists on a cold afternoon to Bishop Square Park at intersection of North Charles and University streets in Baltimore City. The park, notably, sits adjacent to the Cathedral of the Incarnation, the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

After a moment of silence for local bike builder Tom Palermo—a married father of two killed two days after Christmas in a tragic crash—the mass of bicyclists rode in silence to the scene of the fatal collision on Roland Avenue, placing a white memorial bicycle, known as a “Ghost Bike,” per tradition, in honor of Palermo.

Among those speaking briefly at the vigil at the site of the crash were Nate Evans, of Bike Maryland, Greg Hinchliffe, of Bikemore, and Jeff Hulting, Palermo's brother-in-law, who talked about Palermo's passion for cycling.

Hulting said that with two young kids, a full-time job, as well as his small custom bike building business, his 41-year-old brother-in-law hadn't had been able to ride as much as he'd like in recent years.

"Last Saturday was a beautiful day and Rachel [Palermo's wife], realizing how busy they had been, suggested to Tom that he do what he loved and go out for a ride," Hulting said.

Details Emerge Quickly
As Baltimore bicyclists organized the first of ultimately two memorial rides in honor of their fallen friend in the days after Christmas, details related to the afternoon crash that killed Palermo began to come to light.

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, it was learned, had emailed clergy members shortly after the fatal collision, acknowledging the diocese's second-ranking official, Bishop Suffragan Heather Elizabeth Cook, as the driver. Sutton added that the 58-year-old Cook "did leave the scene initially," returning 20 minutes later "to take responsibility for her actions." 

Later, however, it was also learned that at least one bicyclist had followed Cook's car as it left the crash scene—a striped bike lane on a relatively quiet, wide stretch of Roland Avenue in a well-to-do section of North Baltimore— attempting to identify the vehicle. It was also learned that Palermo had been alive when police arrived and that he had been taken to Sinai Hospital where he died a short time later.

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