Renewed passion for cycling pays off |

Renewed passion for cycling pays off

Gail Hurlbert displays the three gold medals she won at the recent Huntsman Games in Utah.
Dave Price |

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Gail Hurlbert can laugh now when she looks back at her introduction to riding a road bicycle 30 years ago with her future husband.

The experience was memorable, although not particularly pleasant at that time.

“We took our road bikes and went up this little hill at Mammoth Lakes … I hated it,” she said with a wide smile. “I said, ‘I don’t ever want this again. I don’t like it.’ So we came back and sold the bike.”

To update you on what has happened since then, Gail and George Hurlbert are now celebrating 24 years of marriage, they have been living in Carson Valley for the past year and she is back riding a road bike.

Riding well enough, in fact, to win three gold medals at the recent Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah.

The Huntsman Games, which began in 1987, feature 30 athletic events staged during a two-week period for athletes ages “55 and better.”

Hurlbert won three races in her Division IV women’s 65-69 age group, including the 5-kilometer hill climb, 20K time trial and 37K road race. She exceeded all of her expectations in all three events

“I had no expectations,” she said. “There were over 11,000 athletes from 77 countries throughout the world. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get one gold medal, let alone three.”

Hurlbert started with the hill climb on Oct. 10 that challenged racers with a climb of nearly 1,000 feet to an altitude of 4,100 feet. She clocked a time of 23 minutes, 45 seconds to win her gold medal.

“I really wanted to do well in the hill climb because I’m a pretty good cyclist when it comes to climbing hills … but I was still shocked when I broke the course record for my age group,” Hurlbert said, adding that she seen benefits moving from the Bay Area and training at altitude.

Next up was the time trial on Oct. 11 and Hurlbert won with a time of 40:47 over an out-and-back course. She capped off her week with a 1:28:06 effort on Oct. 13 in the road race at Snow Canyon State Park.

“The road race had up to 13 percent grades going uphill,” she said. “My goal was one hour, 30 minutes, so I was very happy with that. It was a good accomplishment for my age, actually for any age.”

The highlight of the Huntsman Games — a senior version of the Olympics — is the people and volunteers who participate in the various events, George Hurlbert explained.

“What’s so neat about the Huntsman Games, and I did it years ago in a different sport (Pickleball), is the camaraderie and the friendly people,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, somebody is still there congratulating you. It’s competitive yet there is still a kindred spirit.”

Gail Hurlbert is already looking forward to her return trip in 2018.

“My goal next year is to improve on each one of these times, so I’ll go out here and train a little bit harder.”

And, yes, she is glad to have reconsidered her interest in the sport of cycling after that initial experience at the high altitude of Mammoth Lakes.

“After we came back and sold the bike, then I said, ‘Let’s try mountain biking.’ So we tried that on fire trails and 10 years later I said, ‘I think I’m ready for road biking now.’ Before I knew it, George had bought me a road bike and signed me up for 10 century rides. I’ll never forget that … you know, I should go back and do that little mountain and conquer it.”

For more information on the Huntsman World Senior Games, visit the website.