People come together from across the country to help a special cyclist
By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Dec. 10, 2006 - A diverse group of cycling fans and their friends, including the Sulphur Springs and Winnsboro Pilot Clubs, have joined together to make this the best Christmas ever for one special Northeast Texas bike rider.

Wayland White, 41, of Arthur City has been riding and racing bikes for some 20 years. 

�I started when I was 23 or 24,� White said. �Someone gave me a bike and encouraged me.�

The fact that White rides and competes in area cycling events is quite an accomplishment, considering the challenges he faced as a child.

�When he was 2 years old, he got meningitis,� said his mother, Sadie, a retired nurses� aide. �The doctors gave up on him. They said he wouldn�t live. They said if he did live, he would be a vegetable.�

Her son proved the doctors wrong, on both counts. 

Mrs. White, 78, said she knew early on that something was the matter with Wayland, but she didn’t have a name for it.

�He started school, but by the third grade, he couldn�t read or even write his name,� she said.�

Mrs. White went to the school and begged them to help her.

�A teacher finally called me and said, �Wayland is slow,�� Mrs. White said. �But she also said Wayland could go to special education classes.

�One day, about a month after Wayland was put into the special class, the teacher called me to the school,� Mrs. White said. �When I got there, the teacher told Wayland to sit down and read from a storybook. And, he did. Tears started rolling down my cheek. That teacher was the one that saved him. He made A� and B�s after that.�

White graduated from high school in 1983. He also took a special driver’s education class and passed the exam.

�I was scared he wasn�t going to do it,� Mrs. White said. �But he came home and waved his license in front of me and said, �Lookee here.��

Pansy Bell, a Sulphur Springs Pilot Club member, said White rides their __________ race almost every year.

Pilot Club records show White won the race in 2003 and again in 2005. And he won on a hand-me-down bike that has certainly seen better days.

�He looked at my step-daughter�s bike at the race last year,� Bell said. �He called about it, but he didn�t buy it.�

White also rides in the Tour ‘d Paris, near his hometown of Arthur City, every year.

�I know him from his riding in just about every single Tour de Paris since its inception in 1984,� said Linda Knox, former executive director of the Paris Chamber of Commerce. �When I started riding a bike about a year ago, he would stop by my office and try to get me to ride in some of the area rides.�

Winnsboro Pilot Club President Imogene Davis says that White has ridden in their Tour ‘d Trails for as long as she can remember. 

�He always gets here early and he�s always wearing the same clothes,� Davis said.

White placed fifth this year in the 20-mile event of the Tour ‘d Trails. 

�I made a wrong turn,� White said.

After finishing his race, White cheered for riders who finished the 40-mile race, but he  was especially interested in the “hot shoes” worn by the likes of former pro Chris Powers of Dallas and collegiate champion Brian Wyrick of Quitman who competed in the 60-mile event.

�I wish I could ride like that,� White said then. �I want to ride really fast.�

A photo of White standing near the three winners of the 20-mile race is a study in contrasts. The winners are tricked out in great gear, and their bikes are gleaming.

White’s bike, however, is enough to discourage most anyone from riding around the block, much less trusting it to complete a grueling road race.  

The stem (the piece that connects the frame to the saddle) is rusted. The saddle is covered with stiff, ill-fitting plastic. The tires don’t have one ounce of tread left. 

To be competitive in a road race, a cyclist needs a wide choice of gears — at least 16, according to Wyrick. White’s bike has three working gears.

White’s one pair of biking shorts are stretched and snagged. His shoes and helmet are scuffed and worn. He has no gloves.

Not having adequate equipment or clothing didn’t seem to matter to White that fall morning in Winnsboro. He mingled with the crowd, talked to other racers and cheered as every rider came across the finish line. He was happy to be there.

�I got up at 4:30 this morning to make sure I got here in time for the race,� White then.�

At the Winnsboro race, a group of people who interacted with White during the day decided that anyone who loved cycling as much as this should at least have competitive gear. 

Bob Wilson of Winnsboro, a cyclist for 26 years, said he had enough parts to put a bike together. 

�We just need a good, used frame,� Wilson said.�

Ray Wyrick f Quitman, also a long-time cyclist, offered to help Wilson build a bike with spare parts.

Steve Quiett from Fate, who took second place in the 20-mile race, said he would send a couple of new saddles he wasn’t using.

Brenda Barnell of Dallas, who rode in the 20-mile event, said she could gather some jerseys and biking shorts. She said she would ask her club, the Greater Dallas Bicyclists, for extra items, too.

Wyrick’s son Brian, a Quitman native and member of the Midwestern State University’s cycling team in Wichita Falls, said he would donate maintenance items, like new tires and tubes, and a flat repair kit. Brian also said he would help coach and train White for next year’s racing season. 

The Winnsboro Pilot Club agreed to waive White’s entry fee to the Tour ‘d Trails next year.

A Winnsboro resident offered to purchase a tank of gas for next year’s trip.

Before leaving Winnsboro, the ad-hoc group exchanged e-mail addresses. They then turned to the Internet to get the word out about the “A Bike for Wayland” project, asking for help with equipment, clothes and other gear.

White was oblivious to the scheming and planning going on around him.

White’s story was posted on several message boards, including OLN TV, BuffettNews and BicycleGroup Forum.

Alison DeMasters, a BuffettNews regular from Glen Allen, Va., said, “For my husband and me, something about the ‘grass roots’ nature of this effort struck a nerve.”

The DeMasters donated a pair of Italian racing shoes.

�Honestly, we didn't set out to find Italian shoes,� she said. �They were literally the first pair we could get someone to donate.��

Wayne Sickels, another Buffett fan, offered to pay White’s entry fee the next time he rides in the Tour d’ Paris.

�I love to give a helping hand to someone like Wayland who works so hard to do what he so clearly loves,� said Sickels, who lives in Boise, Idaho.�

Bill Liston from Connecticut said, “I guess it comes down to a passion. Reading the post on BuffettNews, I got the sense that this kid loves to ride and compete. He loves the sport and never says, ‘If I had this or that I’d do better.’ He was just happy to be part of the event and was proud of his accomplishment that day.”

Liston donated a new, candy apple red helmet to the project.

Bill Ansel in Garland, sent a 12-function cycle computer for the handlebars.

�As a broke college student I used to compete in Jet Ski freestyle, and I made it to the world championships one year,� Ansel said. �I couldn't have done that without help from friends who believed in my potential.�

Things went well for the group until about two weeks into the project, when they hit a major roadblock; no one had an extra frame to donate, and new ones were out of their price range. 

�I live in the country, so I shop the web for (bike) deals all the time,� Wilson said. �I went out the web to see what was available.�

What Wilson found was a 2007 Mercier Corvus All Road Racing Bike.

By the time Wilson located the bike, enough money had been donated to purchase the brand new, out of the box bicycle.

�Wayland will be riding this bike into retirement,� Wilson said.

Jimmie Davis, the husband of Winnsboro’s Pilot Club president, offered to pay the shipping costs for the new bike.

Wilson, Business Development and Special Projects Director for Team Worldwide, said his reason for getting involved was simple.

�Cycling doesn�t just build muscle, it builds character. Our hearts went out to Wayland at last year�s Tour �d Trail,� Wilson said. �We did nothing about his worn out bike and gear last year, so we wanted to act on it this time around.

Wilson said the rewards from working on the project far outweigh the efforts.

�Those of us involved got two wonderful things,� Wilson said. �We got the opportunity to see someone with a real passion for cycling be given the opportunity to do so much more. But the greatest thing we got was to do something unselfishly for someone you don�t know and to expect nothing in return.�

When they heard about the project, the Sulphur Springs Pilot Club joined in.

�We�re happy to waive Wayland�s entry fees in our race for as long as he wants to ride,� said Pilot President Tina Phillips. �We�re going to help him with fuel for his truck, too. It�s the least we can do for Wayland. He�s a special guy.�

As Ron Ester Jr., a former Marine who lives in Colorado and who donated to the cause said, “A cyclist can learn proper technique or purchase proper equipment, but he can’t learn or buy heart. Up until now, Wayland has been racing solely on heart. Having a bike and the equipment to measure up to his heart will give him a chance to prove what he can really do!” 

�It feels good to do good,� DeMasters said. �Feeding a person's soul is every bit as important as feeding their body sometimes. This special mission has fed everyone's souls.�

A group of about 20 people made the trip to Oak Hill Baptist Church in Arthur City this morning. They represented almost 50 people from across America who pitched in to help the boy who only wants to ride “like the guys who go really fast.”

They surprised Wayland White, the kid who wasn’t supposed to live and who has never had a new bike, with a 2007 Mercier Corvus All Road Racing Bike, a new candy apple red helmet, Italian racing shoes, three pairs of gloves, new riding clothes, a new tire pump, and enough maintenance equipment to open a cycling shop.

What the group received in return cannot be measured.

"This was a great day," TIna Phillips said. "Maybe now Wayland has what he needs to ride with the guys who really fast."

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