For 80th birthday, cyclist riding 80 miles a day for 10 days

Phil Baker, a lifelong athlete who turns 80 on Aug. 28, begins his bicycle ride with his co-rider Britt Drummond, left, Tuesday Aug. 24, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. Baker is celebrating his 80th birthday by cycling 80 miles a day for 10 days straight.(Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Baton Rouge man is celebrating his 80th birthday by cycling 80 miles a day for 10 days straight.

His personal challenge began on Tuesday and will continue through Sept. 2.

Phil Baker’s actual birthday is Aug. 28. He travels a route that largely uses River Road, with some variations, to take him 40 miles from home and then 40 miles back.

He leaves his house at 5:15 a.m. and gets back around 10:30 a.m. A fellow cyclist will ride with him each day.

Baker, a lifelong athlete who’s competed in Ironman triathlons, began training for his birthday-week rides about a year ago.

He had been walking and hiking up to 20 miles a day, to take a break from cycling, then picked up the bike again, starting his training by traveling 10 miles in an hour, then slowly increasing his speed over longer periods of time.

“I got up from 10 miles to 20, 25 miles, then 30 and 35 miles and up to 40 and 50 miles for a longer length of riding,” Baker said.

“It wasn’t all done in an hour, but the hour goal was a way to start,” he said.

Baker said he also bought a “brand new, beautiful bike” — a Canyon bike he admires that’s used by one of the teams in the Tour de France.

A local bike shop helped Baker adjust the bike seat and handle bars to fit him, he said.

“It’s all about where you are on the bike,” Baker said. “Fit is everything.”

A native of the town of Beckenham, near London, Baker came to his passion for cycling through his father, Frederick Stanley Baker.

“My dad was a biker. He never had a car,” Phil said.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in air-conditioning and refrigeration, Baker, in his 20s, planned to leave Britain for better work opportunities in Canada. He found even better ones in the U.S.

He met his wife, Goldie Domingue, a native of Baton Rouge, at an architectural engineering company in Houston.

The couple later lived in Chicago, where Baker commuted by bike to and from work each day, for a total of 60 miles. He would ride on weekends, too, to make a total of 700 miles for the week.

Phil and Goldie moved to Baton Rouge in 1994.

Baker’s birthday challenge has grown a bit over the last two decades.

“When I was 65, I did the same thing and when I was 75, too,” said Baker.

“Now I’m doing it at 80. It’s getting closer together,” he said. “I don’t know when the next one will be, but I’m planning it now.”