To say that bicycle racing has had a big impact on Steve Fermanich is no exaggeration. “I think about how it has changed my life for the good,” he said. “If I hadn’t done it, I most likely never would have been able to do an Ironman, let alone become healthier and stronger as a person. When you are doing something that you have never done before, it makes you challenge yourself mentally and physically.”
His participation in El Tour de Tucson is proof of that. For nine years, Fermanich has competed in the Arizona road bike race with the Inter-Fab cycling team, racking up impressive times. In 2012, he beat his record from the previous year, coming in at 4 hours 47 minutes 23 seconds in the 111-mile Main Event.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012, El Tour de Tucson was held, as usual, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Typically, it attracts more than 9,000 cyclists of all ages and abilities, raising nearly $2 million annually to benefit 20 nonprofit organizations. The Inter-Fab cycling team, typically 40 strong, has raced for 12 years, raising more than $50,000.
Fermanich wasn’t even a cyclist when he joined the Tucson-based manufacturer of pool products in 2000. Starting as production manager and then plant manager in Tucson, he’s managed Inter-Fab’s Memphis, Tenn., branch for five years. The reason he got on a bike in the first place was because of Mike Hagerty, company president. “He used to race, and talking to him got me thinking. I knew I needed to start exercising,” Fermanich recalled.
He quickly found a passion for the sport and the cause. “To me, [El Tour] is a great benefit helping people — and it’s a team-building exercise for us. Inter-Fab people come out from Chicago, New York, New Jersey. Anybody in the organization who wants to ride can,” Fermanich says. “And others are along the side, handing out bottles of water [to riders].”
Throughout the year, Fermanich also participates in other fund-raising events. For instance, next month he’ll be in the “MS 150,” a two-day, 150-mile bike ride in Memphis to benefit multiple sclerosis research and the work of the National MS Society.
Married and a father of four, Fermanich does a lot of bike racing and running in his spare time. Sometimes there have been injuries. In October 2012, he hurt his knee, but still competed in El Tour the following month. “I had to heal fast!” he said. He’s also done two Ironman competitions (swimming, cycling, running) — and, for the first one, he had to learn to swim in six months.
Clearly, when Steve Fermanich sets his mind to do something, there’s no stopping him.