What started out as a simple way to get into shape for a hunting trip has turned into a passion for maintaining good health. Through his love for the sport of cycling and through his patience and generosity, Jack Turk has spawned a small group of dedicated cyclists in the Heart of Texas. In 1993, Turk began riding an old three-speed Schwinn bicycle several times a week to get into shape. He had scheduled a mule deer hunt near Paduca, on a 25,000 acre ranch that was virtually barren of roads. To get the chance at a trophy deer, Turk knew he was going to have to do much of his hunting on foot. “I started riding about eight miles a day,” said Turk. “After riding, I would run two miles and after a while, it got to the point where the running was too rough on my knees, so I just kept up with the riding.” The training paid off later that season when Turk bagged a trophy mule deer. His love for riding bicycles became a hobby for which his passion continued to grow. He purchased a new bike in 1994 and began to ride in various races around the state. Over the next several years, he would compete in the Hotter ‘n Hell 100-mile race, a grueling mid-summer race known for its difficulty hosted annually in Wichita Falls. In all, he rode in the race six times and one time even made the entire trip in just over four and one-half hours without stopping. “I could have done even better,” said Turk, “but I ran out of water around the 90-mile mark and that was tough when the heat on the course was over 100 degrees.” One day while making the circle around Brady Lake, Turk was headed back into town on U.S. Hwy. 87 and Bryan Payne, a former Department of Public Safety trooper from the area, pulled in behind him in his patrol car. Payne was a fellow cyclist and after a bit of conversation on the roadside, the two began training and riding together. Over the next few years, Turk’s interest and knowledge in riding began to foster the start of several more local riders. By 1997, a small group of riders were hitting the roadways several times a week venturing out on rides ranging from a short jaunt to treks more than 25 miles long. As time went by, the small group of riders slowly gained numbers and with it came the camaraderie common to the cycling community. “I started with the club in 1995 with an old Huffy that was outdated and not really designed for street riding,” said Bill Derrick, one of the members of the local group. “Jack took me under his wing and with a lot of help and a whole lot of patience, he has helped me and several others get their start in the sport of cycling.” Since his first rides around McCulloch County in the early ’90s, Turk has developed a knowledge of the mechanical workings of bicycles. With his experience as a mechanic, he quickly became the local guru when it came to bicycles. “He has helped us all out at one time or another,” said Derrick. “He has been the go-to guy if something ever goes wrong on your bike. If it was broken, you would take it to Jack and he could fix it.” The continued growth of cycling on the local front plateaued for awhile, but the local group of riders continued its weekly rides usually with Jack leading the way. In 1999, Turk was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease which attacks the nerve endings in the body. The disease has hampered his ability to pursue cycling in the competitive spirit, but it has not hampered nor squelched his love for the sport. “The thing I love about cycling is that it is addictive. The more you do it, the better you feel and the more you want to do it,” he said. “I also enjoy seeing others get involved and become consumed with it as well.” As the unofficial head of the local cycling group, the members plotted an honorary tribute to Turk and his efforts to promote the sport. With a bit of resourcefulness and some custom work by a local print shop, the group formally named themselves the “Turk Cycling Team” and had custom-made cycling jerseys made emblazened with a mascot and the team name’the “Jack”alopes. “We thought it would be neat to start a club and name it after Jack to thank him for all he had done for us,” said Derrick. Last Tuesday the club members gathered at the home of Rex and Cathy Ewert for a Tour de France watching party. Unbeknownst to Turk, it was acually a party in his honor. When he arrived, the members of the club were ready and waiting each wearing his or her custom-made Turk Cycling Team jersey. The club still rides several times every week. They are divided into different skill and ability levels with one designed for beginners or novice riders and another for more advanced riders. “We would like to encourage anyone with any interest in staying healthy to become a part of the club,” said Derrick. “Anyone who would like to get together for a ride with other cyclists should just give any of us a ring. Contact persons for the club are the Ewerts at 597-6006 or the Derricks at 597-0493.