COPPERAS COVE — Saturday marked the beginning of the cycling season with the year’s first race, the Megan Baab Memorial Road Race, at the Copperas Cove Civic Center.
More than 300 cyclists from across the state attended the race, which raises money for college scholarships for female cyclists in the name of one of their peers who was taken from the sport way too soon.
Megan Baab was an avid cyclist from the age of 8, often struggling to keep up with her father and coach until she was good enough to start leaving her father behind eating her dust, said Chris Baab, Megan’s father. She was born Oct. 12, 1992 and died Dec. 15, 2011.
“She came up through the junior ranks and travelled often,” said Baab. “We started the (Team Bicycles Inc.) junior team and Megan started (cycling) when she was about 8, worked her way up and started racing after that. Her first rally ride was the Tour d’Italia (in Italy, Texas) and she did it on a 30-pound Pacifica five-speed. I told her if she did 35 miles I would buy her a road bike. And then it started from there.”
Megan began racing, and by the time she graduated from L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, she had received a cycling scholarship to Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, N.C.
“She was coming back from a training ride — she had wanted to stay an extra week after the first holidays let out to stay up there and ride the mountains,” Baab said. “So she was coming back and a little boy fell asleep (at the wheel), staying up all night studying for finals, and hit her head-on. She was going downhill and he was coming uphill on a curve.”
The race in Cove was one Megan always griped about because of the cold weather, but since the race is the one allowing cyclists the ability to see their fitness for the racing season, she always attended. Having the race named in her memory is a great honor, her father said.
“Megan was a great kid. She was always smiling, always friendly. Sometimes the other ladies riding would drop back and ask me if I could tell Megan to keep quiet,” Baab said. “But that was Megan. She was a truly wonderful kid and I was truly blessed to have a kid like her.”
The race is sanctioned with a certified course. Standings from the race go into each cyclist’s state rankings, said Betty Price, Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce president. One lap in the race is 54 miles, usually done by junior teams. The top tier riders will loop around and end their race after approximately 83 miles.
“The first year we renamed the race for Megan Baab, I didn’t realize that her father was in attendance. It was a really rough year,” Price said.
“I think one of the real heroes in this race is the City of Copperas Cove and its Chamber of Commerce,” said Andy Hollinger, race director, of Bedford. “We’ve done this race now for 10 or 12 years, and we’ve grown this to a long and active partnership. As for Megan Baab, she was a young racer, loved this race, went to college on a bicycling scholarship, and on her first year there she was hit by a car and killed. Just after signing a pro contract.
“She was one of those people that everybody loved. There was no drama, she was a great sportsperson. Her father and I put together a foundation and contributions from all over the state came in. We’ve put nine girls through college through this.”
The scholarship is now administered through Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls and benefits female cyclists who participate in the sport during college, said Hollinger.
For more information on the scholarship foundation or to donate, visit teambicyclesinc.org.