Retired bike racers have new pursuits in Pine Valley

September 09, 2003 12:00 am
Once the driving force in Inga's life, her bikes and those of husband Matt's now hang from the rafters in their barn. The Newberrys energetic, seven-year-old son, Tyler, keeps them on the go.  (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
Once the driving force in Inga's life, her bikes and those of husband Matt's now hang from the rafters in their barn. The Newberrys energetic, seven-year-old son, Tyler, keeps them on the go. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

HALFWAY — Inga Thompson-Newberry took up bike riding on a whim.

Her goal was to join the 1984 women's Tour de France.

She didn't make it.

Instead, after just three months of training, Thompson-Newberry made the '84 Olympic team.

"I hadn't done it at all. I just had kind of a gift for riding a bike," says Inga, 39.

That launched a ten-year career, taking her all over the world to compete in as many as 150 bike races each year.

But she downplays her list of racing accomplishments, including time trial wins, medals in the World Championships and Pan-American Games and her unofficial record in the Idaho Women's Challenge stage race.

"My only claim to fame was Lance Armstrong and I were on the same team in the 1992 Olympics," she smiles.

Her husband, Matt Newberry, also shrugs off accomplishments during his own bicycle racing days.

The couple now live on a farm in Halfway with their son Tyler, 7.

Inga points to her barn's ceiling where 11 bicycles are entombed, hanging upside down and covered with a fine layer of dust.

"Some of them I've ridden in the Tour de France and world championships. You kinda get attached to them. All my Olympic bikes are in here," she says.

She retired in 1993.

Matt retired in 1992.

"I failed my football physical and he said ‘Find another sport — swim or ride a bike.' So I got a bike," says Matt, 36.

In addition to the yearly races, Matt competed for several Olympic teams but didn't qualify in the top three after racing against 180 competitors.

The couple's racing days took them all over the world.

"We really lived in Europe," Inga says.

"We got to see a lot of places we wish we could see one day. That was our joke — (when you raced) you saw the roads and the hotels," Matt says.

But one thing they did notice was the attitude toward cycling.

"Cycling is such a big part of French culture — it's like Little League here," Inga says.

Though she can't choose a favorite race among so many, she does remember preferring the competitions that ran through the smaller towns.

"It was always more fun to go to small towns to bike race. It's kind of a side-liner sport," she says.

Neither Matt nor Inga admit to spending much time astride a bicycle these days.

"I ride once in a while, for fitness," Matt says.

Inga has hopped on a bike only three times since retiring.

"We have other things now — we've paid our biking time" she says, stroking the silky side of her Friesian mare she's raised since birth.

Inga's new venture is called "Lone Fir Friesian Carriage Service." She offers rides for weddings and other special occasions with her carriages and team of four black horses.

Matt spends much of his time at his boot shop, where he builds custom leather boots and other footware.

Though the Newberrys don't plan on participating in any races, or even joining the slower paced scenic tours, they would like to stay involved with the sport of cycling.

Involved behind the scenes as volunteers, they say, instead of riding through the courses.

"I do feel a commitment to the sport — that we should give back when we can," Matt says.