LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) - If it’s a sport, you can bet Eddie Holmes has done it, coached it and promoted it. His latest focus is the Gulf Coast Bicycle Club. While his intensity can be intimidating, his intent is for athletics to be inviting. And, if he has his way, everybody on the Coast would be on two wheels pedaling for pleasure.
Eddie Holmes is known by a lot of things - soccer coach, Iron Man, marathoner - but bicycling has always been at his core.
“I just really like to cycle,” he said. “And when people start cycling and find the right bike and the right people to ride with, they get that. It’s difficult to understand why somebody would want to go dress up in spandex and ride 100 miles. But we really enjoy it.”
Holmes has been president of the Gulf Coast Bicycle Club for three years. His goal is to promote cycling - in all forms and all levels. And it’s paid off. Participation is on the rise.
“I don’t know it’s because of me, but definitely I think because of the number of activities we offer,” he said. “I think because we’re offering more than just time trial events. The beach cruiser rides and all those other things, so I think that’s what has brought the people in.”
He not only directs the events, he makes the trophies for them. Obsessed, perhaps? “I don’t think obsessed,” he said with a chuckle. “Dedicated maybe.”
While the club has events for the beginners or the casual riders, there are those who take their fun a little more seriously, like elite endurance competitor Allen Stanfield of Ocean Springs. He credits Holmes for providing the Coast with plenty of options in bicycling.
“It really is amazing and without somebody like him at the helm you really don’t get those things done at all,” said Stanfield. “And you see that in a lot of places. So, it’s really something I try not to take for granted and try to always come out and support local events because of that.”
Long-time GCBC member Bob Clark knows the benefits of this kind of exercise even in his 70s.
“I’ve got bad hips and I can’t run, and I kayak and bike,” he said with a laugh. “Two exercises you can do sitting down.”
And Holmes’ leadership of the club has earned his respect. “He is type A,” said Clark. “He does nothing under first class. Nothing. If it’s not the best, won’t fool with it. We have had time trials and duathlons and bike rides and organized events, but Eddie has raised the bar.”
Safety is also a priority for Holmes, who said the Coast has plenty of good places to ride.
“The cycling community has got to get along with the people driving cars because they’re going to come together,” he said. “It is legal for cyclists to ride on the road. But if they’re going to do that, they need to know how to do it.”
Holmes has a big motive for being physically active. “In my family, there’s heart disease and diabetes and so I’ve kind of made a conscious effort to be aware of that and try to keep busy, keep moving and getting involved with things you like and that's the perks of it too. You get the fitness as well.”
Holmes has been retired from the Long Beach School District for years, but sports will always be with him. “I’m one of those people who has heard, ‘I don’t know what I’ll do when I retire, I’m bored out of my mind.’ Well, I don’t ever have that problem.”
If you want to know more about the Gulf Coast Bicycle Club and its events, check out its Facebook page.