If you race in the Carolinas there’s a strong chance that you’ve met, seen or definitely heard the deep Southern drawl of 53-year old Glenn Thrift. This self described “red neck from Pickens” has a long history in the sport of cycling.
Thrift was originally a runner who would accumulate 80 to 90 miles a week pounding the pavement. Heel spurs ended his running career so at the age of 28 Thrift was introduced to cycling.
“I bought a bike and in the first three weeks I owned it, I rode from Greenville to Gatlinburg (approximately 140 miles) where my wife picked me up. When I get into something I get into it gung-ho.”
It was not long after this epic ride that the South Carolina resident decided to enter racing. After just a couple of years racing Thrift had amassed enough victories to move him into the Category 2 ranks. Over his 25 years of competition Thrift’s resume includes about 135 victories as well as an invitation to the Olympic Trials in 1988.
“I love cycling and I always want to be a part of it. It’s a great sport,” said Thrift.
Some of Thrift’s cycling career highlights include a second place at the Assault on Mount Mitchell beating Pete Penseyres who had just won the Race Across America and the Blue Ash Dash in Ohio finishing third in the uphill time trial beating Alexi Grewal, the 1984 Olympic road race champion.
Not all of his enjoyment comes from racing a bike. Fifteen years ago Thrift received his USA Cycling officiating license. You have probably seen him running one of his numerous races including the Hincapie Training Series held earlier this year. Prior to that, he decided to mentor the younger generation of cyclists coming through the ranks at Furman University and has been involved with the school for 23 years.
“The kids knew I was a rider and they would ask for advice and to take them out for rides.” As a result Furman has won three national [collegiate] championships.
As with all good coaches, Thrift has an eye for talent and spotted recent Furman graduate and now pro for Team BMC, Chris Butler.
“I noticed him two years ago and knew he was the real deal. I’m not that bad of a climber but he’d leave me behind in the dust!”
Behind every successful cyclist is a someone supporting them. In Thrift’s case it is his wife, whom he met while riding. To this day she continues to encourage him to ride.
“She’s been a blessing. My wife has always stood beside me hundred percent. I don’t ride as much as I use to and now she’s jumping on me telling me I have to get back on the bike!”
However Thrift is recovering from a broken elbow incurred from a crash last year at the state road race championships. While this injury has slowed down his cycling he continues to stay involved promoting races including the upcoming state road race and time trial championships. Being a race promoter is just one of the many hats he wears. He also sits on the Carolina Cycling Association board which allows him to attend and give input at USA Cycling board meetings in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
If you are a rider in the Carolinas, Glenn Thrift – whether you know it or not, has impacted your cycling career. Racer, promoter, mentor – Thrift has and continues to be an integral part of the South Carolina cycling community.
Words of Wisdom: “Keep your mouth shut and let your legs do the talking”