Cuff plumbing the heights
The cycling world has changed dramatically since Palmerston North’s former world record holder Anthony Cuff was riding a bike. Sports reporter George Heagney catches up with him to see where he is now.
$ 2000 worth of
as In the 1970s and 80s, Palmerston North’s Anthony Cuff was one of the fastest cyclists in the world.
In his heyday, he was the first man to ride under a minute for the flying kilometre in 1980, riding 59.682 seconds, a record he held for about four years.
Now 56, he doesn’t spend much time on the bike as he is busy running his Anthony Cuff Plumbing business.
At his peak he missed out on what would have been his chance at an Olympic medal at the 1980 Games in Moscow after New Zealand pulled out to support the United States- led boycott because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.
The cycling team were sent to Mexico City instead and Cuff saw breaking the world kilo record as ‘‘ redemption’’ for missing the Olympics.
‘‘ We watched the Olympics on TV in Mexico,’’ he said.
‘‘ I broke the record in the flying kilo the day before I was supposed to ride in Moscow.’’
He said with the times he was doing in Mexico, he would have been in the medals at Moscow, which would have made watching them hard to bear.
During the world record ride, everything clicked, even though he punctured as he was coming across the finish line.
The high- altitude ride was meant to be on a board track but, on arrival, it had been torn up, so they hit the concrete one, which caused havoc for the specialised board tyres.
They went through helium- filled tyres.
After Mexico, Cuff chucked it in, having decided he’d ‘‘ had a gutsful’’ and went off for a nearly year, before changing his mind and deciding to go to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
The results he’d hoped.
4000m teams pursuit and the 4000m individual pursuit and was eighth and 10th respectively.
He then world.
‘‘ I was basically broke, stone motherless broke. I had more debt than anything and there comes a time in your life when you’ve got a family and you’ve got to put your head down and your arse up,’’ Cuff said.
He was 28 then and had been riding competitively since he was 16, getting by on grants from the sports foundation, now High Performance Sport New Zealand, but had to start making some money.
Once he got home he got into social rugby, playing in the front row for the Barbarians senior reserve club team along with former All Blacks Mark Donaldson, Geoff Old and Bruce Hemara.
Now Cuff has three staff working for him and finds his cycling reputation has led to a good business reputation.
‘‘ When you give up your sport you put 100 per cent into your business. Rarely do you find a top sportsperson who craps out in business.
He married wife Deb in 1982 she now works with him in plumbing business.
They have two children – daughter Joleen, 20, and son James, 16, who has just started competitive cycling under Cuff’s old mate and former Commonwealth Games rider and the Mike McRedmond.
‘‘ He’s got a lot of learning to do, got a lot of natural ability but that will only take you so far – today you’ve got to put in the hard yards,’’ Cuff said.
In Cuff’s day, he was doing it for the love of the sport and had to fit in eight hours a day of work if he could, some weeks doing 1000 miles training – a tough lifestyle compared with the focused pursuit of today’s riders.
‘‘ They’re more professional bike riders. All they’ve got to worry about is doing the work on the bike, not trying to earn a dollar so you can support your bike riding,’’ Cuff said.
The bikes have changed a hell of a lot too.
He was riding during the change from standard bikes to carbon fibre and aerodynamics in the early 80s.
‘‘ In our day We did the results.’’
He said now if you have the money you can simply go and buy new gear but he had to be content with a good mechanic, especially competing against the bigger budgets around the world.
‘‘ We had to go to Olympics and world champs to see what they were riding and come home and develop it.’’
Technology isn’t the only change. The nutrition and training programmes athletes go through now are a far cry from the ones in the 70s and 80s.
A box of oranges, baked beans, cans of Coke and a good steak at the end of the day was Cuff’s highperformance diet.
Cuff said drugs had always been involved in cycling and when he was competing they were up against eastern European countries, whose drug programmes were worse than Lance Armstrong’s.
‘‘ The clean Kiwi was his time,’’ Cuff said.
In what recreation time he has now, he does some mountainbiking and fishing but hasn’t shut the door on cycling fully. a lot was in the legs. work and got the