Three Generations of Thread City Cyclers
The current version of the Thread City Cyclers, which was formed in 2002, continues a cycling tradition in the Willimantic, Connecticut area that goes back over 100 years and includes clubs of the same name that existed from 1890-1910 and for a short period in the mid-1980s.
The earliest version of the Thread City Cyclers was formed in Willimantic in the early 1890s by George Hinman, who came to town as a 22-year old in 1892 to take on the editorship of the Willimantic Journal Newspaper. This period coincided with a major cycling boom in the U.S., which catered primarily to the wealthier families and leading citizens of the area. Bicycles, whether they were new or used, were beyond the means of most of the local mill workers.
Bike racing was quite popular in the 1890s and the Thread City Cyclers actively participated in this trend. Along with the Willimantic Driving Club, the Thread City Cyclers organized a series of “Horse and Bicycle Matinees” at the Willimantic Fairgrounds, now known as Recreation Park. The event included a series of trotting and harness horse races followed by one and one-half mile bicycle races. Competitors in the races included many of the area’s leading citizens. Rowdy crowds lined the course and placed bets on the competitions./p>
George Hinman is pictured with the Thread City Cyclers’ mascot, a bulldog, at his feet in this 1893 photograph. The bulldog belonged to city mayor Danny Dunn. (photo pending)
Thread City Cyclers – the 1980s
During the early part of the 1980s, a small group of cyclists riding out of Scott’s Cyclery in Willimantic organized themselves into a group they called the “Thread City Cyclers”.
This group, which is unaffiliated with the current generation of TCC, conducted weekly rides from Scott’s and sported woolen Thread City Cyclers jerseys, at least one of which survives in the closet of current club member Phil Hollister.
Thread City Cyclers – Today
The current rendition of the Thread City Cyclers grew out of a winter performance cycling class that was held at Scott’s Cyclery in Willimantic during the winter of 2002. After the ice melted, the participants in the class were looking to test their fitness on the road in some type of organized way, which for most of us meant racing. The club had a coach, and formal “workouts” were held every Saturday. Most of the club members competed in cycling races, including time trials, triathlons, criteriums, and road races. Because the original focus of the club was racing, the club remained fairly small, with about 15 members at the end of the 2002 season.
As we entered our second season in 2003, it became evident that there were a significant number of riders in the area who were interested in belonging to a group that focused more on the recreational aspects of cycling. While many members remained interested in racing, it was no longer a pre-requisite to being a member of the club. Our focus shifted from racing to promoting individual fitness and cycling skills for club members. We initiated our Saturday rides from Windham Airport in March of 2003 and continued the rides until the snow flew in December. The club organized a highly successful USCF weekly time trial series in Scotland that drew 15 to 25 cyclists from around the region each Thursday for eight weeks. The club also hosted a Cyclocross race attended by about 50 riders from southern New England on a blustery December day at Mansfield Hollow Park in 2003. Both the time trial and Cyclocross events have become annual staples for the club. The Thread City Cyclocross, now held annually in October, draws over 150 top-flight racers from throughout the Northeast and, after six seasons, has become one of the premier events on the New England Cyclocross circuit.
With attendance at Saturday rides now numbering as many as 40 riders, we are able to break the group into two or three individual rides that cater to a wide variety of paces and distances. These rides, which now originate at North Windham School on Route 203, are the highlight of the riding week for most of our members. Ride distances typically range from 20 to 70 miles, with a range of available paces. Many club members also enjoy the weekly “Eric’s Recovery Ride”, a mellow-paced spin held each Monday during the Summer months from UCONN, as well as the more frenetic Wednesday night ride from Scott’s, which has been a staple in Eastern Connecticut for more than a quarter century. The Scott’s rides culminate in the annual Eddy Merckx ride, a 52-mile slug-fest to the Massachusetts border and back, which leaves Willimantic at 6:00 PM and returns just before darkness descends.
TCC Presidents over the Years
2002 Larry Bibri
2003-2005 John Hankins
2006 Joe Groeger
2007 Joe Groeger / Amanda Lawrence
2008 Amanda Lawrence
2009-2010 Eric Grove
2011 Joe Drivere
2012-2013 Christian Joseph
2014-2015 Dave Waldburger
2016 Tammy Waleszczyk
2017 Christian Joseph
2018 Larry Waksman