Updated: Aug 1
- by Ryan Corrigan
About a year ago, I was talking to Charlie Criniere, and he told me that he had started getting into cycling with his pastor Athol Barnes. I was excited about this because I started cycling about 3 years ago and fell in love with the sport. We talked about cycling together, but sadly it never happened.
I live right off the Longview Lake Loop - I cycle there almost daily. One of my friends even took me out riding other roads because he said, "All you do is ride around that lake!". My passion for cycling took off in my whole family. After searching high and low for Jr. sized road bikes my wife and 4 boys also started riding on a regular basis. The boys are homeschooled, play soccer, and are crazy active (we can't believe how much they eat)! Almost every day after they finish school, they take off around the loop. They often come back bragging about the people they passed going up Scherer....hahaha! We even bought matching cycling kits after fellow native Coloradoan Sepp Kuss pulled Jonas Vingegaard to victory this year in the Tour de France.
When we heard that Charlie had died on the loop, we were paralyzed with grief. For a week, none of us touched our bikes. Each day I went to the spot he was killed, kneeled there, prayed, and wept. Charlie was not only one of my best friends, but he was killed in the very spot where my family and I ride almost every day. After a week, I got up the courage to ride the loop again.
When JC Van Deventer contacted me and told me he was going to put on the Bright Lights for Charlie Memorial ride, I was in shock. When I told Megan Criniere, she was in triple shock! Charlie had been riding less than a year and had only been out a total of about 10 times. So for the cycling community to rally around Charlie like this was unthinkable to us! He went riding to spend time with Pastor Athol who is an avid cyclist. Athol helped Charlie pick out a used Felt road bike, and at some point along the way, Charlie started finding time early in the mornings to go over to the lake to ride by himself. He obviously started to love the sport! Charlie would never have considered himself a "cyclist", and we didn't think of him that way either. But what we didn't realize was how amazing the cycling community here in Kansas City is. No matter if a person has been on a bike for one day or for 70 years, they consider everyone part of their community. Now I, too, understand this.
Prior to Bright lights for Charlie, I was kinda known as a solo cyclist. Sometimes people would invite me to ride or join group rides, but I only did a handful of times. Like Charlie, I was a little intimidated to join group rides. But I also just love being out in nature alone, hearing the sound of rolling wheels, the wind in my face, the exhilarating feeling of descending down a hill, praying, and pushing myself to the limits! There really is something so unique about road cycling. But after what happened to Charlie, I was scared I wouldn't be able to enjoy it the same way ever again. However, Bright Lights For Charlie changed everything for me! I am more enthralled with cycling than I have ever been, and I am so excited to jump into the group rides that are happening all around the city every week. The cycling community here in KC is really outstanding!
I didn't know what to expect prior to the Bright Lights for Charlie Memorial Ride. I was actually really nervous. I didn't know if I would be too emotional to ride. Pastor Athol asked me to ride 100 miles with him, 10 laps around the lake - 1 for each child. This was an idea that JC Van Deventer came up with when he spontaneously did this a few weeks before to promote the ride. I knew this was something I had to do! But the most I had ever ridden was 60 miles, and I had less than 2 weeks to prepare myself for my first century ride! I needed a miracle!
On the day of the race, I was up at 4:45 am with electric anticipation. When I arrived at the beach and saw the hundreds of people, the news stations, the volunteers, the raffle, the RVs, and the merchandise, I was completely overwhelmed! Then to get to lead out the entire ride with Pastor Athol was a feeling beyond words. So away Athol and I went - 10 laps around the lake! For the first lap, Athol took his special needs son (Joshua, age 15) around the lake on a tandem, then he switched bikes for the remaining 9 loops.
Going around the lake, we saw so many smiling faces, so many moms and kids, so many great cyclists, and so many who hadn't been on bikes in years. We rode and talked, laughed, and cried a little. We remembered our friend Charlie and thanked God for His amazing kindness shown through all who participated in the ride. This event brought us together with truly incredible people!
I don't even know what else to say. No words can describe the event. This was one of the most amazing moments in my life. I was so deeply impacted by the hundreds of cyclists who came out. I am still overflowing and gushing with appreciation for everyone who participated!
Megan Criniere and the whole family even came out for the event. Some of the Criniere kids rode with the 10-mile peloton around the lake to celebrate their dad! Megan was there for hours with a massive smile on her face! I came in for water a few times, and there she was, beaming with joy, with the community gathered around her! What an amazing site!
I am so thankful to Athol for convincing me I could do the 100 miles with him; we rode together the entire time - what a joy! Jason Starforth from the Bicycle Shack also rode 3 loops with us which was a huge blessing!
Athol and I finished 10 loops around the lake - 1 for each of Charlie and Megan's Children. I told Athol that I had gotten my miracle. Here are the names of the children, from oldest to youngest.
My 3 older boys each rode 60 miles (6 loops around the lake). My wife rode 30 miles (3 loops around the lake). And my 8-year-old rode 10 miles (one loop around the lake). In total, as a family, we rode 320 miles for Charlie in just over 6 hours.
Others also completed the 10-loop century ride!
JC Van Deventer (Solo 2 weeks earlier to promote the event!)
Most of the 500+ riders who came out never met Charlie one time - let that sink in.
Thank you to VanDoIt, Elliott Truck Sales, 3 Feet Cycling, Dave's Bike Shop, Kurts Bars, Premium Water, & Major Taylor Cycling Club for ensuring the SAG stops were taken care of! The events team was also able to Raffle off the following items:
VanDoIt Explosion of greatness bag (2 Vandoit t-shirts, medium & large, 2 Vandoit jackets, medium & large, 2 Vandoit trucker caps, 2 Vandoit beanies, Vandoit koozies, Vandoit keychain)
Kuat Bike Rack
Helmet by Smith
Peculiar Winery gift card
Garmin Varia RTL515
Bontrager Ballista MIPS Helmet
Thank you to 3 great ride partners:
The Freedom Ride
Tour de Bier
Bike for Brains
Thank you to the local bike shops which supported Bright Lights for Charlie:
Erik’s Bike Stop
West Bottoms Bikes Cycle City
Velo Plus Trek Bicycles of Lee’s Summit
PR Factory Store
Dave’s Bike Shop
Most importantly, thank you to all of you for making it happen!
I also want to thank Rachel at Lemon Lane Farm in Raymore, Missouri, for donating two incredible flower arrangements to put at the memorial site.
Here is a note from Megan Crineire and the Criniere Family -
From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you Bright Light Riders! We want to thank every single person who was involved in this incredible event! We were absolutely amazed that JC. Van Deventer, who we had never met, came up with this idea! And we were astounded at the hundreds of people who showed up! WOW! Thank you for riding for Charlie! Thank you for riding for the safety of cyclists everywhere! Thank you for all the hard work, all the support you showed us, and all that you gave to us financially! We will forever remember this moment in time and hopefully, we will see you back out next year. If any of you would like to stay connected with us and learn more about Charlie, and our ongoing story you can subscribe to our updates at charliestrust.com. I pray that Charlie’s tragic death will end up actually causing his legacy to grow and continue in all of our lives. A thousand blessings.