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MAJIC: a cycling team for all ages

Team MAJIC coach Mike McCollum assembles his masters and junior cyclists for their 5 p.m. coaching session on Wednesdays at Metropointe Business Park.

After the 30 riders have warmed up by riding the 1-mile course for a while, they congregate back at the start/finish area to receive their instructions.

"Today we will do drills for bike-handling skills, using the cones on the backstretch," McCollum announces. Most riders are attentive, but a few 9-year-olds fuss and giggle astride their miniature triathlon racing bikes.

All wear the distinctive black and white Team MAJIC cycling jerseys. Parents who are not masters riders wait at the side of the road.

Carol Fox, 51, vice president of Southern Telephone Systems, is one McCollum's original masters. A novice triathlete, Fox has raised her family and is now happy to act as mentor for 15-year-old St. Petersburg Catholic student Adam Noble.

"Mike matches up junior and masters riders. We're Masters And Juniors In Cooperation (MAJIC)," said Fox. "I've learned a lot from Adam. He has helped me with advice on equipment purchases, and we're friends too. I enjoy working with him."

Before the bike-handling drill, McCollum assigns each junior rider to a master for the afternoon. Their first assignment is to ride the loop in pairs, returning with one important fact about their partner.

"We emphasize education and safety more than anything," said Team MAJIC president John Edwards, a St. Petersburg marketing consultant. "No other club really does that. We also work very closely with the therapists at the Sportscare Program at Palms Hospital. They evaluate injuries, and do our athletic screenings for Team MAJIC."

The 30 cyclists start swerving slowly through the 10 cones placed in a row. "Nose over the cone, bike goes out," McCollum says through the megaphone. Younger riders seem to be having fun as they lean in and out.

Some of the riders are experienced triathletes, swim meet competitors, Forerunners team members _ even those under age 10. These riders have last names like VanVoorst, Halttunen and Bradley, and are well-known to Florida race directors who have a 13-and-under category.

McCollum, a Category II United States Cycling Federation coach who worked at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, enjoys coaching all levels of cyclists. The pioneer of this junior/master mentor style of coaching, McCollum, 47, guided national cycling champions when he lived in Southern California, but now spends many hours per week on beginners, something he returned to his native St. Petersburg to do.

The Rizzi's Triathlon last April was the first such competition for three of McCollum's masters women _ Kathy Morgan, Ivee Dittmer and Sandy Seimetz, all of St. Petersburg. Morgan, 47, was persuaded by husband Rue, an avid touring cyclist, to sign up for the triathlon because it was "in their backyard."

"Mike had taught me to feel more comfortable on my bike," said Morgan, "but as we were driving to Rizzi's, I told Rue, "I'll just do this one tri, but no more!' "

Morgan was thrilled to place third in the 45-49 age group. Competing in a dozen races since then, her confidence grows each week. Two weeks ago on her 47th birthday, she placed third in the Siesta Key Triathlon, her biggest race (1-kilometer swim, 25k bike and 5k run).

"You always do better than you think you will," Morgan said. "Siesta Key was long, but I just counted the buoys on the swim."

Morgan and her husband hunted for wetsuits before a recent Team MAJIC practice in preparation for last weekend's Half Ironman in Clermont.

"Mike has also made me feel relaxed riding in groups," Morgan said. "The drills help, and speed is not a factor in the drills."

Bike-handling drills are completed, and the 30 cyclists all pedal back to the start/finish. Team photos are taken, and the little cyclists in the group head off to their parents' cars.

Senior and masters racers are warming up now, whizzing by on the course before a 20-lap training criterium at 6 p.m. The cyclists wear colorful Lycra skinsuits from Team MAJIC and other bay area teams. One female lines up with the men _ Sunshine State Games winner Cindy Hardwick, a Team Del Monte rider from Treasure Island who was training for the Florida State Road Championships.

As the gun sounds, seniors take off, leaving McCollum to answer questions about the upcoming touring event at Mt. Dora, and to help juniors pack up.

"We have 100 members now," McCollum said of his team, which exists on membership fees, corporate sponsorships and donations. "Next year, Team MAJIC will start an incentive program, giving juniors some reimbursement on race entry fees based on conduct and their school grades. Our charter states that the juniors get the majority of our available funds."

And it's those younger riders who are the future of the sport of cycling.

For information on joining Team MAJIC, call Mike McCollum at (813) 527-3149.