The Rider

July 14, 2010

Packing The Peloton With Riders

Filed under: Rider Profiles, The Pelotonia Staff — The Blog @ 6:04 AM

When Eric Wunderlich speaks to a group of potential Pelotonia peddlers, he doesn’t see a pack of people – he sees dollar signs. Big, green dollar signs.

Here's Eric at work - talking to a room full of potential Pelotonia riders. This is actually the office of OSU Prez Gordon Gee and several members of his staff have since signed up to ride

“When I look at you guys, I see $2,000 apiece … for cancer research,” Pelotonia’s director of rider recruitment said at a recent gathering at Ohio State.

The average Pelotonia rider, Eric explained, raises $1,986 – and every single cent goes to fund cancer research.

Eric’s hard work – which includes scores of recruitment meetings at Central Ohio (and beyond) places of business – has paid dividends. We’re over the 3,100 rider mark and are certain to hit 4,000 … and 5,000 is possible.

Not bad for a Michigan man.

That’s right, Eric is a U. of Michigan graduate and was a member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic swimming team. His wife, Ann Grossman (now Wunderlich), is a former professional tennis player who grew up in Central Ohio.

They have two children, Fletcher, 9, and Ty, 5.

“We’re lucky, neither one plays tennis or swims,” he said.

Give them time!

Eric grew up in Atlanta and remembers the 1984 Summer Olympics.

“I remember watching Rowdy Gaines win the 100 freestyle and the Americans beat the Germans in a relay, which was one of the most exciting races ever. I wondered what it took to get on an Olympic team. I had no idea 12 years later that would be me.”

Celebrating a silver medal at the 1994 World Championships

Although he was a medal contender, Eric finished 7th in the 200-meter breaststroke, in part because he swam with a punctured eardrum.

“I was a little distracted, which I guess is an understatement,” he said. “It’s hard to focus when you’re worried about blood leaking out of your ear.” Not to mention the pain.

His swimming career came to an end after the Olympics – and Eric spent some time traveling with Ann, who was still on the pro tennis tour. She retired in 1998. They lived in Colorado and Eric eventually got a job with USA Swimming and then for Day Runner, the company that produces calendars and organizers.

“And like most former swimmers I put on 60 pounds,” Eric said, adding he eventually took a good look at himself in the mirror and decided to get back into shape. He began running, did a marathon, then a couple triathlons – and found he really enjoyed cycling.

“I’ve only had a road bike for about 15 months and I’m still figuring out all about cycling,” he said.

Eric and Ann moved to New Albany in 2007, when Ann accepted a job as the tennis pro at the New Albany Country Club. Eric soon landed a job with NetJets, where he was involved with the company’s Pelotonia commitment. However, as part of a large workforce reduction, his position was eliminated on Sept. 11, 2009.

A few months later, Pelotonia was looking for someone to handle the all-important job of rider recruitment.

“It was a natural fit,” Eric said. “I had been involved with Pelotonia from the start and I had become an avid cyclist.” Ann’s father died about 20 years ago from cancer.

The success of the first Pelotonia has made Eric’s job a lot easier.

“To be honest, last August a lot of people in the Columbus area had no idea what Pelotonia was,” he said. “Then the first ride was so successful, and Lance came and there was all this attention on Pelotonia. Now, everywhere I go, people have heard of Pelotonia and want to get involved. It’s something cool and unique and important to Central Ohio; that’s the resounding chorus I hear from people.”

Eric’s days are spent at meetings, where he explains the Pelotonia mission and answers questions from potential riders and volunteers.

Fletcher will be riding in Pelotonia - and maybe even the Tour de France one day. He's got very athletic genes - and so does his younger brother

“How do you get back from Athens,” someone asked him at the recent Ohio State meeting, and Eric explained the shuttle system that ferries riders and their bikes back to the start.

“And if you’re staying in the dorms in Athens, don’t forget to bring a pillow,” he said, adding he forgot last year and had to improvise and wrap a towel around his dirty biking clothes.

Eric is outgoing and enjoys talking to groups and spreading the Pelotonia mission. But in the end, it all comes down to dollar signs. He also spends a lot of time explaining to people how to raise funds – and that it is not as hard as they may think.

And, of course, he keeps seeing those wonderful dollar signs.

“If I can sign up five people, that’s $10,000 for cancer research,” Eric said … and then headed out to another meeting to find five more riders, and five more and…

10 things about Eric …

Favorite ride


Dream ride

Down the Champs Elysees on the final day of the Tour de France

Eric also has a special Pelotonia cruiser

Current Pelotonia bike

Giant TCR 2 and Cannondale Slice time trial bike

Dream bike

Ecstatic with the two I have

Favorite movie


Favorite band/singer


Favorite TV show


Favorite book

American Psycho

Favorite athlete

Daley Thompson

Favorite post-ride meal

Donatos pepperoni and mushroom pizza


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