By Leila Dycus staff writer
A team of riders from the Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls Club tackled a 395-mile bike ride during the Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) event last month. “I just kept saying that I can do it, in my head I just kept telling myself that I can do it,” said rider Nijah Young. “I kept doing it, sometimes I would cry because my legs hurt but then I just kept going.” Nijah was one of three girls who took the Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) ride with the Boys and Girls Club team. Neshay Cobb and Taylor Wilson also rode in the event.
The girls got their start in bike riding with the encouragement of Boys and Girls Club director Gari Quirzo-Santis. In August the girls became a part of the Dream Team and began preparing for the BRAG ride. “It was hard, the first road we rode was three miles and it was painful,” said Neshay. On Tuesdays coach Neil Walker would come to Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls club to work with the team of riders. The girls had to start out slow and build up to the longer rides. Coach Neil would take the team out on Dixie Highway. “We did different rides to build up to BRAG,” said Young. The team traveled to Milledgeville and Atlanta where they rode with the mayor. The group also did the BRAG Spring Tune Up ride that took place in Madison. The rides leading up to BRAG averaged about 16 miles each. Nijah said that her favorite preparation ride was the BRAG Spring Tune Up.
She enjoyed this ride the most because it was the first time that she had slept in a tent. It was also a ride that was close to home that prepared the girls for things they might experience at the longer ride. Neshay’s favorite practice ride was the ride in Milledgeville. She said that this was her favorite because it was raining, which would normal scare her. However one of the coaches, Coach Atiba, encouraged her telling her that it would be okay.
The BRAG ride began on Sunday June 8 in Thompson. The trip took the riders through Waynesboro, Meter, and Jesup and ended in Darien. Each day the team would ride a certain number of miles ranging from 40 to 70. Instead of using their normal road bikes at BRAG the team road mountain bikes. “Metter was my favorite place because they really love their town,” said Young. The teams would stay in tents at different schools along the way. After long days of riding the students were able to hang out and play with other riders.
The coaches encouraged the girls to meet new friends while on the journey. In Waynesboro the team got to relax and swim, which was Cobb’s favorite stop. Days began early, with a wake up call at 5 a.m. Depending on how long the ride was and how fast the team went days would end between 1 and 3 p.m. If a group of the team got tried they would break off from the faster riders with one of the coaches. Coach Neil rode back and fourth through the ride checking on the team members. If one of the riders got too tired and felt like they couldn’t make it through they could opt to get in a van. However, Young and Cobb were among the riders that completed all 395 miles. “If one of us gets hurt our coach will make us stop and wait on them,” said Young.
Cobb continued by saying that the coaches would remind them that they are a team and that they would not leave anyone behind. BRAG riders rode everywhere they went including restaurants for meals. The days were long, their legs often hurting. In the evenings the girls depended on their families for support to push through the ride. The girls said that their parents were really proud of them for their accomplishments at BRAG.
Young said that her brother didn’t believe that she had completed all 395 miles. “There’s something about riding that gets me,” said Cobb. “I go home every day and ride my bike.” Not only were the girls trained to ride the long miles but also they learn about basic bike repairs. Coaches taught the team how to work on their brakes and fix their chains. Riding bikes gives the girls a sense of freedom, allowing them to go places they want to go. “I proud that they accepted and finished their ride,” said Madison-Morgan Boys and Girls Club Director Gari Quiroz-Santis. “I’m not a dad, but if I was- I suspect that this feeling is the same feeling a proud dad would have.” Riding has taught the girls valuable lessons. For Nijah it has taught her to pace yourself. Neshay said that you have to let the bike do the work. She talked about the difficulty of riding up hills and how in these times it’s important that they let the bike do the work. “The girls represent some of our best and brightest and Boys and Girls Club,” said Quiroz-Santis.