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Jared Eborn: Cyclist remembered for his enthusiasm and leadership

Published: Thursday, Oct. 29 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Terry McGinnis (center, standing)

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The sport of cycling is a funny one.

Its athletes proudly embrace the notion of suffering on behalf of another person as a badge of honor.

To empty oneself on the bicycle is noble.

Anything less, almost shameful.

To cross the finish line knowing the effort was selfless and honest is typically as rewarding as victory.

Terry McGinnis, the executive director of the Tour of Utah for the past two years, knew suffering.

But you'd never know it if you met the man.

McGinnis, who passed away Saturday following a long battle with cancer, was a man I never saw without a look of joy on his face — even in pictures of past races where the other cyclists he was racing against displayed looks of agony. McGinnis, when on his bike, was a smiler.

During the Tour of Utah, McGinnis scurried from place to place showing boundless energy.

More energy, in fact, than most of the professional cyclists he was coordinating during the six days of the Tour of Utah in August.

Few could imagine, though, that McGinnis was at the tail end of a bitter battle against cancer. No, McGinnis, one of the most beloved people in the Utah cycling community, hid his suffering well — as any good cyclist would.

Though he probably had a pretty good idea the disease was beating him, he refused to let anyone in on the secret.

Instead, he tirelessly worked to turn the Tour of Utah from a race that had been canceled in 2007 to one of the jewels of the American bike racing scene in just two years.

I didn't know McGinnis very well. We'd worked alongside each other at the race for the past two years and bumped into each other at various cycling races or functions.

At no time, however, did I ever see the man not pleasant.

He could be in the middle of an extremely stressful situation — ranging from a debate over a change in the Utah Cycling Association bylaws to making sure the Utah Highway Patrol kept the highways clear and safe for professional cyclists zooming down Emigration Canyon at 50-60 miles per hour — but he was always calm, always respectful and always willing to listen.

And he was always willing to suffer a little for his friends.

Never a large man, McGinnis packed a serious amount of horsepower when on the bike. He was a former state champion, an expert of two wheels and capable of dishing out the punishment as well as he could absorb it.

If McGinnis was in the lead group of a bike race — whether it was an action-packed criterium around a four-corner course or a long road race with steep hills — you could bet he'd be in the mix and making anyone brave enough to challenge him pay the price.

Like most bike racers, he was not the first person across the finish line most of the time.

But McGinnis was the type of racer everyone wanted on their team.

For fans of cycling in the state of Utah and across the country, McGinnis was certainly a teammate.

Without his leadership, it's very possible the Tour of Utah would not exist. Despite a body that was fighting and weakened by cancer, McGinnis worked countless hours securing sponsors, coordinating volunteers, tying down loose ends and dealing with demanding and cranky media types.

Suffering is, indeed, the price one must pay to be successful in the sport of cycling. Nowhere is suffering witnessed more than in the unrelenting climbs that separate winners from competitors.

In a race, the reward comes sometimes with arms raised at the finish line.

On training rides, and in life, the reward comes from knowing an honest effort — win or lose — was made in reaching the summit. The descent, fast and free, makes the suffering worth the work.

McGinnis is no longer suffering. His finish line was reached, and somewhere he's enjoying a long downhill cruise.

But, like the winner of a race who had teammates lead him through a stiff headwind, cyclists in Utah are, in many ways, the beneficiaries of his work.

Though many don't realize it, cycling is a team sport.

And because of the work McGinnis did, cycling fans across the state are winners.

e-mail: jeborn@desnews.com

Twitter: DesNewsEborn

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