Story by Darby Good | Photos by Corrie Coleman
Many cyclers describe their sport as “having the courage to not let life pass them by.” After leaving his career as a professional golfer, Baylor cycling professor William “Ray” Lamb picked up a bike and quickly fell in love. Since then, Lamb has competed in races that push boundaries of distance, time and strength.
A few years ago, Lamb competed in the Tour Divide—a 3,000-mile race that stretches from Canada to Mexico and follows the Rocky Mountains. After many years of wanting to compete in the race, Lamb found his opportunity when two of his friends were diagnosed with cancer. To raise money for their treatments, he set out to complete the Tour Divide, accepting donations for his friends along the way. Lamb began training by biking up to 350 miles per week around his neighborhood.
“About 50 or 60 miles in [to the race], my pedal caught the wrong way, and I fell and broke my hand right off the bat. I was ready to quit,” Lamb said. “My phone got service when I crossed into America and was flooded with so much support for me and people wanting to donate toward this cause. I knew I had to finish.”
The Tour Divide requires that cyclists be self-supported, meaning they can’t start the race together, and they can’t race alongside one another. The only time competitors go off trail is to ride into nearby towns for supplies. To make matters even more challenging, the peak of the trail is home to the largest population of indigenous grizzly bears. Continuous storms wreak havoc throughout the 3,000-mile race.
“I was cold, soaking wet and my hand was killing me,” Lamb said. “When night comes, you just realize there is no one else, and it’s pretty defeating.”
Lamb nonetheless finished the race and raised over $4,000, which ultimately helped both of his friends beat their cancer. He attributed his friends’ success to the efforts of the entire community and said he’s glad that he was able to contribute.
To Lamb and many of his fellow riders, cycling is about pressing on through hardship rather than making perfect time in a race.
Close friend and fellow cyclist Fred Schmid is 85 years old and has been cycling for the past 24 years. He and Lamb met on the trails of Cameron Park and have since cycled many miles together. Schmid has claimed nearly 30 national and world championship titles and recently cycled 100 miles in a race.
“I’ve broken a hip, but it’s allowed me to live,” Schmid said. “The first hip replacement got infected, so it was removed, and the doctors said I had a 2 percent survival rate. Yet here I am.”
Over the years, Lamb’s friends have witnessed him conquer new hurdles in the cycling world. Lamb has battled heart problems in the past, yet he continues to bike without fear. He also runs a bike shop from his home and has been building bikes for his grandson for more than four years.
This past July, Lamb was biking around a lake when he was hit by a drunk driver, who sped away from the scene. Witnesses of the incident came to his aid. However, Lamb eventually got up, hit the trails for 42 more hours, finished the race and proceeded to see a doctor.
“It probably wasn’t the wisest decision,” Lamb said. “But that’s what I love about this sport. The tenacity people have to keep going.”
Since his pro-golfing career, Lamb has taught several golfing classes to students of different skill levels and ages, as well as college biking courses. The mother of one of his former golfing students, Nancy Goodnite, currently races alongside Lamb and Schmid.
Goodnite is also passionate about cycling, but, like Lamb, her career began with a different sport. As a runner, Goodnite competed across the country and ran marathons in all 50 states. After sustaining multiple injuries, she turned to cycling for cross training between runs. Goodnite has since competed in several Iron Man triathlons and spends increasingly more time on her bike.
“I’m 52, and [biking] makes me feel like a kid again,” Goodnite said. “I did a ride in Colorado this past summer called the ‘triple bypass,’ where you climb three mountains. It was really hard, really challenging, but super gorgeous. You don’t see that in a car.”
For each of these athletes, training entails making an adventure out of each ride, with average weekly mileage totaling 250 to 350 miles per rider.
A few years after beginning his career as a cyclist, Lamb decided to share his love for cycling with others by writing a textbook. He said his goal is to reach people who want to start cycling but know nothing about the sport, which he has accomplished as Baylor’s only cycling and mountain biking instructor.
Fred Schmid’s wife, Suzanne Schmid, said she admires Lamb’s ability to offer such a unique perspective to the sport. “It’s a matter of having the courage to take life on,” Suzanne Schmid said. “It’s easy to say, harder to do. One thing Ray brings to the classes is that he can show them that they can go out and do anything.”
Whether these athletes are descending mountains, crossing borders or traversing their own neighborhoods, they each feel similarly excited about their pursuits. When Lamb went on his first bike ride, he said he was so exhausted that he told his family he thought he was going to die. Since that day, Lamb has progressed further on the trails each time he rides and emboldens others to do the same.
“It has become such a huge part of my life, and it’s something I wish I had done earlier,” Lamb said. “It probably changed my life more than anything I’ve ever done before.”