Never Too Old to Shift Gears: World Champion Carl Grove

By Marilyn Trout | 01/14/13
Never Too Old to Shift Gears: World Champion Carl Grove

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I met Carl Grove during the 2012 Masters National Track Championships. He wasn’t hard to miss. For me, it wasn’t his championship medals around his neck, but his big smile and energy that radiated from his athletic build that pulled me in. What was he all about? What motivated him to push the limits on the bike while others his age “deserve to rest?” “I’ve got plenty of stories if you have the desire to listen”, replied Carl. He has over eighty years of personal experience that has shaped who he is today and buried within those experiences are nuggets of wisdom for healthy living. We may not know the number of our days, however, as Carl exemplifies, we can make the most of each day we have with positive anticipation for the future.


Shifting Gears with World Champion Carl Grove
Never Too Old to Shift Gears

“My cycling started on my paper route of 150 customers in the 1940s with my big Schwinn. Rain or shine, any temperature 100+ to 10 below, I knew what work was then and know what it takes to excel in physical work nowadays.  I was a strong kid.  In the late ‘60s, I came back to Elkhart, Indiana after 20 years in the official U. S. Navy Band in Washington, D. C.  to work in the musical industry business and rediscovered my Schwinn Super Sport.  I met up with some young cyclists, ages 17 to 22, as I was the “old guy” in my 40’s, and went at it tooth and nail not knowing anything about training methods. Two rules became very important to me then and, throughout the years, have become even more important. They are the reasons I give to the question, “how do you manage to ride like you do at an advanced age?”

  1. Hang out with younger people.

  2. Just keep pedaling. 

In about 1968 or 1969, I went to the state road race and placed second which allowed me to go to Lansing, Michigan for the Nationals.  I placed 13th in the Veteran’s category (40+ years) out of 89 starters.  It was a 40 mile course and we averaged around 28+ miles per hour.  I backed off on my riding a year or two later and continued to ride sporadically for many years until more recently. At age 79 or so, I became interested in riding again and, not long after, was drawn into serious training and racing.

I saw an advertisement for a professional cycling camp and my curiosity about what happens when riding with pros, prompted me to sign up in 2009 for the one week camp.  What an eye opener that was! At the end of camp they pulled me aside and said that I was fast, strong, had an exceptional VO2 max and that if I trained right I could win the 2010 Nationals.  I hired a coach and set up a training plan for the upcoming National Championships. (That year I won the 20K 80+ category by around 8 minutes and the 35 mile road race by 15+ minutes beating most 70 year old riders and some 60 year olds.) 

In 2010, I went to the Masters World Championships in Austria and got a 4th place in the TT (11 seconds out of third) in the 70 year class as there was no 80 year class.  The mountainous road race was hard fought with the Italians and Germans along with competitors from 30 countries.

The new category of 80+ was included at 2011 Worlds, so back I went to Austria with much more experience and most of my family.  I won the 20K hilly time trial by 2 1/2 minutes and also raced in two road races of 35 miles plus each, a good share of it in the mountains.  The competition was tough and finished with a 4th and 3rd place to get back on the podium.  It was very proud moment to represent the USA in these World Championships. 

Sage advice from Carl:

1.      Don’t bemoan retirement or getting older. Use the time to do it right (whatever “it” is).

2.      Embrace new technology. I use the available scientific methods like a power meter, heart rate monitor and a computrainer.

3.      Never think you are too old to go for it. 

4.      Always hang out with younger riders and just keep pedaling.

5.      Experience new things. Do something different as you grow older.

6.      Listen to your body. I take all the rest I need. It is important.

7.       Eat healthy. I watch my diet a little closer. (I am lucky to be in good health, have good genes from my mom and dad.)

8.      Keep learning. I read lots of books and articles.

9.      Get a good coach. I got to the top because I had expert advice and a plan.

10.   Challenge yourself and recognize the risks. I know that if you ride and race aggressively, you are going to have what goes with it.  It's your decision on the various dangers. (I have had a couple of hard crashes with various separations, no broken bones, lots of rashes!) 

11.    Live wisely in your younger years, they will impact you in later years. Look at your alternatives such as growing old at a younger age both physically and mentally.  I do what I tell others to do with the authority of my age.  GO FOR IT.  Hang out with younger people and think of all the beauty and chances you have in front of you.




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