Monday, October 30, 2017

Charlie Henderson

Last Friday, our friend Charlie Henderson passed away, after battling cancer. We very much miss him. Charlie was a founding member of the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club in 1993, and its president for 20 years. You can read Mark Lowe's fine profile on his RMCC Colorado Triple Crown blog. Here are details of Charlie's randonneuring side.

Riding ...

Challenge Series and BMB - Charlie had a longtime interest in endurance cycling. He brought the "Challenge Series" to the RMCC at its formation. These are mountain doubles such as Denver-Aspen, and form the basis for today's Colorado Triple Crown.

In 1992, he and a few RMCC riding pals headed up to Boston to ride the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200k, at that time the only Grand Randonnée in the US. He would ride BMB again in 1994 and 1998. After BMB'98 finished, Charlie attended the meeting that created Randonneurs USA, which became the new sanctioning body for US randonneuring. Charlie lent his support to the fledgling organization, and became RUSA #6.

At Mortagne-au-Perche on the rainy PBP'07

Paris Brest Paris - Charlie rode PBP'95, the first PBP after the RMCC began hosting qualifying brevets. He would also ride PBP'99, '03, and '07. For some of these, his son Peter would come over from England to support him. In 2003, Charlie's titanium frame cracked on the first day. An official lent him his racing bike with electronic shifting, and Charlie managed to ride 1000km of the PBP course.

At Byers control on Last Chance 2009

Colorado Last Chance - Charlie rode the second edition of the Last Chance, when it had only a dozen or so riders. He said it was a hot year with ceaseless wind, even in the wee hours of the morning. He rode it again in 2006 - another windy year!

At the Glen Haven Store on the 2005 Flèche

Flèche Team Prairie Dog - Charlie rode the first Colorado flèche in 2002, as part of the only team that year, Team Prairie Dog. As a rancher, he had mixed feelings about prairie dogs, but became fonder of them after riding on this team. He would ride with the Prairie Dogs four more times.

Boston-Montreal-Boston1992, 1994, 1998
Paris Brest Paris1995, 1999, 2003, 2007
Colorado Last Chance2002, 2006
Flèche Team Prairie Dog2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007

Organizing and Mentoring ...

Brevet Series - As the RMCC was forming in 1993, Gary Koenig, who would be RBA from 1993 to 1998, approached the club to host local brevets. Charlie gave the brevets his enthusiasm, and insured important support from the club (and certainly committed, because he was riding them himself!).

At the Atwood, KS control on Last Chance 2004

Colorado Last Chance 1200 - When RAAM veteran Bob Fourney proposed a 1200k heading to Kansas, Charlie latched right on to the idea. That area of eastern Colorado and western Kansas was very familiar to Charlie from his ranching ties. He could describe terrain, crops, towns, and the history of the "Great American Desert" in detail. The "Last Chance highway" - US-36 - was also a road he had traveled in his college days from Dartmouth to go skiing in Colorado.

Charlie arranged the lodging and other logistics, forming long-term relationships with the motel and store owners. Especially in the early years of the event, Charlie was a one-man support team out on the prairie.

Colorado High Country 1200 - Charlie's special contribution to the High Country was the Wyoming Snowy Range. Despite the thought this would be tough on the riders, it turned out to be a pinnacle of the event, and made it a two-state event. And of course he took care of lodging, dropbags, and course monitoring as he'd done for the Last Chance.

Charlie above all was a mentor to riders, and a friend you could count on. He coached more than one PBP aspirant in how to train, how to plan, and how to execute for a successful finish, no matter what the rider's level of ability.

Charlie will be remembered by so many within the randonneuring and ultra communities and everyone within the club he led for two decades, and really by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.



  1. Charlie,
    You were a gentleman, a kind person and a good randonneur. This world is a lesser place without you.
    - Jennifer

  2. Charlie epitomized the reason I love cycling. Not about winning not about anything really other than the pure enjoyment gained from from being on a saddle, as well as his happiness from seeing others enjoy being on a saddle. RIP Charlie. I’m going to miss you

  3. I lost a close friend & fellow Warrior over the weekend. Charlie Henderson was close friend & ultra cycling mentor. When I started randonneuring I was fairly strong from years & years of tennis but I lacked the key to successful ultra cycling, knowledge. Even though I was strong enough to sometimes leave Charlie & his regular riding partner Rex, I almost always stayed with them soaking up as much info as possible. Charlie was patient, teasing me about my non-existent emergency clothing, small seat bag or my latest light weight bike accessory. Thanks Charlie...& Rex too.
    Charlie & I were exact opposites politically (I’m certain there’s a pattern). We would discuss our views with respect, neither of us changing our position. Charlie was a retired United States Marine officer. Arguing with a Marine is bad enough but arguing with a Marine officer...
    I must admit I loved to tease Charlie. He would turn & glare at me with that Marine stare. I loved the man.
    Charlie was in his eighties when they discovered pancreatic cancer. I spoke with him near the beginning & in the middle of his journey. He was determined to fight, despite the odds. He was concerned about my battle with cancer & I thanked him for teaching me to go on when I was certain I could not. Thanks again Charlie.
    Cancer is a mean heartless son-of-a-bitch. I think I’ll add Charlie’s spirit to my arsenal. I’m sure he won’t mind.

  4. Charlie Henderson, you taught me so much in our small interactions and literally lent me the light that showed me the way at ParisBrestParis 2011. Getting to visit your basement and realize you were also a Marine made everything come full circle for me. I only wish I could have chatted a couple more times with my fellow Marine and taken on few more insightful lessons. #SEMPERFI #fuckcancer

  5. Charlie touched my heart and so many others. He inspired me to be a better rider and a better person. I was scared of him at first because he was like a God in the cycling world but his kindness and sense of humor esp when he teased me erased my fears! He inspired me to try things I never believed I could do.... he will be missed forever...