Lily Stagg: Mettle on the Pedals

Lily Stagg at the Atlantic Ocean Wheel Dip on May 22.
Lily Stagg at the Atlantic Ocean Wheel Dip on May 22.

Lily Stagg is passionate about cycling — and has the scars to prove it.

She’s evolved from a student using a bike to cruise around campus and town, to a competitive cyclist and a leader on UL Lafayette’s Cycling Team. In August, she completed summer stint as a member of Bike & Build‘s SC2SC 2016 team which rode from the Atlantic Ocean on South Carolina’s coast to the Pacific Ocean on the beach at Santa Cruz, CA, on a somewhat meandering route that covered 4,172 miles with stops along the way to work on local affordable housing projects.

There have been some bumps along the way. She’s had two fairly serious bike wrecks on the streets of Lafayette, each of which has resulted in surgical procedures, along with the expected road rash.

Still she rides. Undeterred. Her second wreck was about a year ago, just as she was beginning to train with the UL cycling team and just before she had planned to apply to ride with Bike & Build. That wreck kept her of her bike for about nine weeks while things (primarily her broken right wrist) healed.

Not only did she heal, but she was ready to compete in the spring when the collegiate cycling season opened. She was accepted into Bike & Build and reached her fund-raising goal and did her volunteer work with Habitat For Humanity in Lafayette before heading to South Carolina in May to begin the SC2SC ride.

As Lily explains in our interview, Bike & Build is a service organization that uses cycling as the vehicle to engage young people into deeper commitments to social service and justice through supporting affordable housing. Bike & Build had eight cross-country rides under way this summer (see map), all of which had about 30 riders on them. All of those rides had ‘build’ components in them, where the riders would stop for a day or so in a community and work on projects identified by locals as a priority.

All the rides move from the east coast westward. It makes a good bit of sense when you consider that rides starting in the west heading east would start with the western mountain ranges as their first obstacles.

We discuss the ride, Bike & Build, and the tragedy that occurred on another of the ride routes when two riders were struck by a car in southern Idaho in July.

Lily’s SC2SC team made it safely across the continent without incident. They raised more than $150,000 for the affordable housing projects that they worked on along the way.

Lily is back riding with her UL Cycling teammates preparing for the 2017 season. It will all seem like a piece of cake as she looks back on her Bike & Build summer where 36 miles was the shortest ride (the longest was 116 miles) and rides included days climbing real mountains like those at Independence Pass at the Continental Divide.

Lily Stagg in Oklahoma City, OK, in late June.

I brought Lily to South Carolina for the start of the ride (her mom met her in California for the end). As luck would have it, my mom’s health faltered a bit in June and I went up to Tulsa, OK, to visit her. Lily’s team was in Oklahoma City and had a day off. So, I got a chance to see her and we both managed to see my mom (whose health has improved since).

This was just under a month into the ride. Lily was tanned and fit (although, not rested!). She looked pretty much the same  as she had when I’d last seen her, but she radiated a new confidence that was hard-won and authentic. Through the wonders of technology (text messages, Facebook, Instagram) we were able to follow her trip and stayed in regular communications with her.

When the two riders were struck in Idaho in July, Bike & Build pulled riders off the roads for a couple of days. We later learned that parents of some riders on the eight routes were pushing for the organization to pull all the riders off the road and end the rides where they were. We communicated our support for the program and for keeping the riders on the roads directly to Bike & Build.

Bike & Build, as we discuss in the interview, had been very up front about the risks involved with cycling on open roads. Three riders had died in accidents over the 14 previous years of the program. The risks were no greater after the Idaho accident than they had been before. It’s just that those risks were now more apparent.

All rides were completed. There were eight sets of wheel dips in the Pacific Ocean at various spots along the West Coast. Bike & Build gave these riders life affirming and life changing experiences. A drive in Idaho took a life, grievously injured another cyclist, and shook Bike & Build to its roots.

bikeandbuildlogoChanges are afoot in Bike & Build, as the organization grapples with the impact of the incident on the Central US route. Judging from the beneficial impact the program has had on the people who have participated in it and the community projects that have benefited from the work of these great teams of enthusiastic, idealist, empathetic young Americans, the greatest tragedy that could happen would be for Bike & Build to lose its spirit in an effort gain a marginal bit of security and safety.

It’s a great program that shapes the lives of riders — and those who encounter them — in positive ways. I’ve seen it in my own daughter.

Enjoy the interview. The podcast-only segment opens the podcast, followed by the four segments of the Where The Alligators Roam program that aired on Sunday.

The SC2SC2016 team on the beach in Santa Cruz on August 9 after completing their ride.
The SC2SC2016 team on the beach in Santa Cruz on August 9 after completing their ride.

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