Retirement doesn’t always mean naps on the couch. For some seniors, it means continuing to keep fit and adventurous. For San Juan Islander Robert Stavers, he has delved deep into one of his passions.
“I’ve been cycling seriously for the last 20 to 30 years. Once you start, it really gets to you,” Stavers said.
With a finishing score of 1:21:13, he won the silver in bicycling during the 40K road race, age bracket 75-79, during the Washington State Senior Games that took place on July 28 in Olympia, Washington.
Although a retired Certified Public Accountant, Stavers is an avid outdoorsman and photographer — his exhibit, “South by West,” in the San Juan Community Theatre lobby this month. He explained that he got into cycling because it allows him to be outdoors, and he enjoys the intensity of the exercise. He is planning on competing in the same event next year. Should he qualify for the national games, he will head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the games’ hosting city, in 2021. To qualify, athletes need to finish in the top three in their age bracket.
Feeling the need to promote fitness and healthier lifestyles for adults, in 1985, a group of seven people organized The National Senior Games in St. Louis, Missouri, according to the senior games website. The original games, held in 1987, had 2,500 competitors. The second National Games also took place in St. Louis in 1989, hosted 3,500 seniors, the website stated, and were covered by the New York Times, ESPN and Good Morning America. Over the last decade, the organization has grown exponentially, attracting over 10,000 athletes.
The individual sports include archery; bowling; badminton; basketball; cycling; dance; golf; pickleball; walking; racquetball; road race; rock climbing; shuffleboard; softball; soccer; swimming; table tennis as well as track and field events. Team sports include basketball; soccer; softball; and volleyball. To qualify for some rock climbing events climbers may be as young as 40, but most of the other sports minimum age is 60 years old.
“Cycling has allowed me to go to some pretty amazing places,” Stavers said.
Stavers has cycled in Italy and France on a number of occasions, and in the Alps and Pyrenees, the same area as the famous Tour de France cycling race. While he has never entered Tour de France, he has peddled three times the Etape de Tour.
Etape de Tour is an event wherein “citizen” riders ride the route the professionals take in the Tour de France. The Etape lasts one day and is typically a 70-mile ride with 5,000 feet or more of an incline up a mountain, Judy Stavers, Robert Stavers’ wife, explained. She doesn’t usually go with him on these European adventures. This year, however, the couple went hiking for two weeks in Mont Blanc, prior to Robert Stavers’ additional two-weeks of cycling. Even when the race is not occurring, the area, Robert Stavers said, is a popular place to bike and usually has several people on the roads.
“It is beautiful in the Alps and Pyrenees, lots of long long climbs,” he said.
Robert Stavers noted that he loves bike riding in the mountains because it makes an already intense exercise more intense. To get his mountain biking fix locally, he travels to Orcas frequently and pedals to the top of Mount Constitution.
To gear up for next years’ Washington State Senior Games, Stavers will frequently be biking back and forth along a 6-mile stretch of Roche Harbor Road. The laps he makes along Roche Harbor, Robert Stavers said, is similar in length and difficulty to the actual race. He also plans on going down to Olympia to practice at the competition’s track at least a few times prior to the event.
He realized that racing is more than just physical skill though, Robert Stavers said. Anyone interested in racing needs to think strategically.
“I didn’t understand how we were placed at the start,” he said as an example.
As a result, Robert Stavers fell behind immediately and forced himself to work twice as hard to catch up, tiring him out faster. Nonetheless, he was only three seconds behind the gold winner, according to the Washington Senior Games website. To view the results, or learn more about the state games, visit www.washingtonstateseniorgames.com.
Of course, Robert Stavers added, it also helps to know the rest of the competition; their strengths, weaknesses and habits.
This past July, there were between 30 to 40 cyclists, with only five of whom in his age bracket. Next year, however, it is a qualifying year, which means winners will move on to biannual national events, Robert Stavers explained. He added that he expects there to be more participants.
“They are all good riders,” Robert Stavers said of his competition. “They have all been riding a long time.”
To learn more about the national senior games, visit nsga.com.