Andrew Dys

75? It's the years and the mileage

Frank Rizzo of Rock Hill will ride his bicycle 75 miles Saturday to celebrate his 75th birthday.
Frank Rizzo of Rock Hill will ride his bicycle 75 miles Saturday to celebrate his 75th birthday.

Elevated testosterone? Tour de France bicyclist champ Floyd Landis may shudder as his doping scandal rocks the sport, but Rock Hill's Frank Rizzo cackles at the thought.

"I hope I have any testosterone in my system," Rizzo cracked.

Turn 75 years old today, wish you had enough hair for a combover and throw in a plan to ride a bicycle 75 miles Saturday, and Rizzo might need a little boost.

Rizzo's crony in the Rock Hill Bicycle Club, where he is by far the oldest member, is a veritable pup of a codger, 66-year-old George Davis. With the stent in his chest, the wise guy grin and the racing jersey that shows off his ribcage that looks like a birdcage, Davis will ride 75 miles Saturday, too.

"I used to be the oldest in the club, so nobody was happier than me when Frank showed up," Davis said. "I had one lady, in her 30s I bet, tell me I was looking good when I rode by the other day. Wonder if she'd say the same thing about Frank."

"Good? I look great," Rizzo declared.

Maybe. Rizzo is nowhere near svelte at 220 pounds. His barrel chest should be on a boxer-turned-cabbie. A paunch lingers like an in-law in the guest room. He looks at least 6 months younger than 75.

There's no old man hat, Buick Roadmaster or Terminator sunglasses. Just hips and gut and a smile. Rizzo isn't self-conscious about the getup that includes padded spandex shorts.

"At my age, you need all the padding you can get," he said.

Especially over 75 miles.

Brooklyn-born Rizzo came to Rock Hill with his second wife a year ago after a life lived selling books for a publisher in Manhattan. No more three-martini lunches wooing bookstore owners. Just a part-time job as a janitor at Winthrop University to keep him busy -- he doesn't really need the money, and, of course, he is the oldest guy there, too -- and his bicycling.

In the bicycle club, Rizzo is already a legend that younger riders want to keep up with. On practice runs Monday nights and Tuesday and Thursday mornings, bicycle club members Stephanie Woloszczuk, 17, and Ellen Stoune Duralia, 35, pedal 25 miles or more with him, too.

"Thirty-five?" squawks Davis. "I have jerseys older than that."

Rizzo, the father of three grown sons and grandfather of six, inspires the younger riders.

"The fountain of youth," said Stoune Duralia.

Woloszczuk tells her buddies in the 11th grade: "I'm just going riding with friends."

Two friends old enough to be her grandfather.

Rizzo started riding about 10 years ago when his first wife was diagnosed with cancer. He even kept riding after a collision with a school bus in New Jersey.

"Torn rotator cuff, cracked ribs and humerus, and a little road rash thrown in for good measure," Rizzo said.

But Rizzo hasn't ridden 75 miles in 10 years. To get ready for the long haul, Rizzo and Davis started increasing training mileage about two months ago. About 30 miles, then 42, then 51 miles a couple of weeks ago. The trip will start at Rizzo's Rock Hill home, head south to Chester County, then almost to Clover, through York and back home. Saturday's trip with about a dozen other cyclists could take six, seven, even eight hours.

"I don't go too fast," Rizzo understated. "Uphill? Slow. I do best on the downhills."

"At our age, we both do," quipped Davis.

"At least we can move," shot back Rizzo.

About 10 miles an hour, not downhill at all at age 75. All the miles are victories.