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Working in Tandem: Elmhurst Cyclist's Ride Might Surprise Some People

Ed Hill doesn't let being blind stop him from anything—including completing the Chicago to Milwaukee Road Tour for charity.

Cyclists know that point during a long ride when you wonder if you can go on. For Ed Hill, that point on Saturday stretched between mile 25 and mile 45.

“I had serious doubts,” the Elmhurst resident said. “Parts of my body hurt that had never hurt before.”

Ed joined a group of 650 riders Saturday who biked from Wrigley Field to Miller Park in Milwaukee as part of a fund-raiser for World Bicycle Relief and Chicago Cubs Charities. The 100-mile ride ended with a Cubs-Brewers game at Miller Park.

And while the ride itself was challenging, Ed had an additional challenge few other bicyclists face: He has been legally blind since birth. He is retired now, but he used to teach special education at a high school in Chicago for children with cognitive and visual impairments.

Ed has Leber's disease, a degenerative condition of the retina. Although he always needed to use audio books and other aids for reading, he didn't need any assistance getting around until his early 40s. Now, he maintains his independence with the help of Garnet, a black labrador guide dog.

But it was Ed's brother, Bruce, who provided assistance for the century ride.

Ed and Bruce Hill bought their own tandem bike just for the race. Because of a shipping delay, the Hill brothers did not have much time to get used it, so on Saturday, it took a few dozen miles for them to find a cadence. By mile 60, they were riding along at a steady 15 miles per hour. Although they caught a headwind, it cooled them down, Ed said.

Ed always has been an active runner and skier, but not always an avid cyclist. However, since his retirement six years ago, his routine includes cycling at the Elmhurst Park District's fitness center. To prepare for the Wrigley-to-Miller ride, he gradually increased the time he spent on the bike.

At the peak of training, he cut out other machines and swimming and spent three hours at a time on a bike. No matter what his training routine, Garnet was at his side, curled up next to the equipment. The “extremely accommodating” Courts Plus staff is always there to help, as well, he said.

People Ed meets are often shocked to hear that he likes to do the same things they do, he said. Now, he has a bike ride to Milwaukee to surprise them with. 

The Brewers beat the Cubs 6-4 that day—Cubs fans are used to that—but Saturday's ride was just a small part of another kind of battle that isn't over by a long shot. 

Money raised in the Wrigley Field Road Tour will benefit World Bicycle Relief, which provides bikes to people living in poverty worldwide to help them go to school, get medical attention and attain economic independence. The organization was created in 2005 by bike companies SRAM Corp. and Trek Bicycle to aid victims of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. Since then, the group has expanded its efforts to include Africa and has distributed more than 75,000 bikes.

Anyone interested in donating to the cause can visit the World Bicycle Relief Web site. 

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