An original goal of this club was rider development. Yet, from my earliest association with the Wheelmen I've heard concerns that Thursday Nights were missing that prime goal. The basic conflict was whether Thursdays should be developmental races undefined training for the more important federation events (then the A.B.L.) where the ultimate goal was Nationals, National Team selection and so on up the ladder, with the hopeful possibility of discovering the next George Mount. Or, were Thursdays legitimate in being a season-long championship, (some have called them the Thursday Night World Championships) with the local cycling enthusiast in mind? Our Founding Fathers seemed to expound the former. When I joined we started drifting toward the latter. In practice we've always been both.
There was originally a structured program of development and coaching, but this structure suffered when some key members began to leave the Toledo area in the mid-seventies. Inadvertently, my beginnings in 1976 did not include this initiation through the program. In the autumn of 1975 I was caught by Dave Skiver. I had purchased my first lightweight bicycle that Summer, did a few tours, and was out riding for fitness when Skiver told me about the Wheelmen. The season had just ended, so over the off-season Dave took me out for one-on-one training sessions with next Spring in mind. We also did some weekend rides from Fallen Timbers and, of course, the Equinox, so by the time club races began in April, I was known as Skiver's protege. I was able to hang with the group and this overnight assimilation, bypassing the formal initiation, may have left some of the old guard a bit disenchanted.
In the years that followed there were more membership relocations, and others drifted away. There were also some new faces and the club slowly grew. New members entered as proteges and some established racers even relocated to Toledo. The races became increasingly more competitive over the years, but the club was getting a bad rap for being an inaccessible, elitist organization. Would-be members showed up for one race and were never seen again. For someone new to the sport, finding a mentor might have been the only way in. Fortunately, we've had our share of good mentors, one of whom I would next like to commemorate. Look for Cliff Mueller, the Pied Piper of O.O.I.P. in the next chapter.