Meet the cy­cling club where 81 is still young

A se­ries cel­e­brat­ing older peo­ple in our com­mu­nity who defy their years to do amaz­ing things.

The Press - - News - Mad­di­son North­cott * If you would like to sug­gest some­one please email re­[email protected]

At 81, cy­clist Bill Yates is still just a boy.

He is one of five men wedged into tight, bright, Ly­cra gath­ered in the Princess Mar­garet Hos­pi­tal car park on a driz­zly Mon­day morn­ing. Cy­cle shorts re­veal thin, pale pink scars run­ning over his kneecaps. The match­ing in­ci­sions are last­ing signs of surgery.

Ten years his se­nior are vet­er­ans Gra­ham White and Les Fibbens, and round­ing out the group are Eric Hunter, 85, and Bruce Stan­ton, 82. Some have come for the ex­er­cise, oth­ers for the com­pany, but for most, the weekly meet­ing of the Mag­pies is sim­ply rou­tine.

The Mag­pies, named af­ter a se­ries of in­ci­dents with the pesky bird, are a group of Christchurch cy­clists who meet to ride about 80 kilo­me­tres out to Tai Tapu for a cof­fee and a chat.

Cy­clist Les Fibbens, 91, fondly re­mem­bers the group’s in­au­gu­ral meet. About 15 years ago, a hand­ful of mostly re­tirees got to­gether for a ride and, af­ter find­ing most cafes were shut, went back to his house to ‘‘rummage in the cup­boards for some­thing to eat’’. At some point dur­ing the en­su­ing ban­ter, the Mag­pies were born.

A di­verse group of men and women make up the now 100-strong group with var­i­ous frag­ments at dif­fer­ing abil­i­ties op­er­at­ing across the city. Some were lawyers, oth­ers doc­tors or man­agers. Most were for­mer run­ners who ‘‘wore [their] body out’’ or com­pet­i­tive ath­letes, all were pas­sion­ate about fit­ness and well­be­ing and ‘‘get­ting on a bit in age’’ was no bar­rier, Hunter said.

A healthy ri­valry and com­pet­i­tive spirit among the group kept the older mem­bers chug­ging along and ‘‘keep­ing up with the young ones’’.

They rode with a buddy, side-by-side, and chat­ted about life, loss and love.

‘‘You get to know the bor­ing ones . . . the con­ver­sa­tion doesn’t last long.

‘‘There’s one of two of us who have lost our part­ners, which has been very, very hard . . . we’ve helped one an­other but it’s not been easy.’’

De­spite hav­ing two knee re­place­ments and a hip pin, Hunter has shown no sign of slow­ing down.

In July, he re­turned from a 13-day bike tour of Bu­dapest, where he clocked up about 100 kilo­me­tres a day, one of only three in the 17-strong group to opt out of us­ing an elec­tronic bike. His am­bi­tious streak helped him com­plete sev­eral high-level rides, in­clud­ing the multi-stage Tour of Ire­land and the Isle of Man In­ter­na­tional Road Race. He was a non-trav­el­ling re­serve for the 1956 Mel­bourne Olympics and won the team’s sec­tion in the first ever Coast to Coast.

Hunter en­tered the Coast to Coast mul­ti­sport com­pe­ti­tion for the last time aged 79, the old­est per­son ever to com­plete the 243-kilo­me­tre event.

A Sport Can­ter­bury’s Spa­ces and Places re­port found that re­tirees in the re­gion did more cy­cling, golf, bowls, and aquaro­bics than the na­tional av­er­age. Twenty-seven per cent cy­cled, eight per cent higher than the na­tional av­er­age. Fel­low Mag­pie Bruce Stan­ton took up track cy­cling at age 63, and is still in the arena 20 years on.

Stan­ton, 82, was the old­est com­peti­tor in the track cy­cling pro­gramme but came home in first in all but one of the races he en­tered in the South Is­land Mas­ters Games last year. The only one in the group on Mon­day to have re­tained his own knees and hips, he cred­its his ex­em­plary health, re­fus­ing to make ex­cuses for him­self.

‘‘Keep­ing ac­tive, that’s what you have to do. Find some­thing and keep do­ing it, get out there.’’


Bill Yates, 81, leads fel­low Mag­pie cy­clists Bruce Stan­ton, 82, Gra­ham White, 91, and Eric Hunter, 85.

Les Fibbens has been a keen cy­clist all his life and was a found­ing mem­ber of the Mag­pies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.