Oliver Briggs gave his competitor a head start in the men's slalom heats - next minute, he was "flying through the air".

The 30-year-old Oamaru penny-farthing stalwart's spectacular crash threw him over the handlebars and into the air as the crowd of hundreds that lined Tyne St for the 22nd Heritage Bicycle Championship races on Saturday gasped - witnessing what might have been the most memorable moment of this year's Victorian Heritage Celebrations in Oamaru.

Oliver Briggs takes a spectacular tumble during a race at the Victorian Heritage Celebrations in Oamaru on Saturday. Photo / Jamie Wasilchenko
Oliver Briggs takes a spectacular tumble during a race at the Victorian Heritage Celebrations in Oamaru on Saturday. Photo / Jamie Wasilchenko

"I was catching up on him, and I just went way too fast through the cones, and I turned the wheel from right to left too quickly," Briggs said.

The road gripped the rubber on his wheel and pulled the solid rubber tube tyre clean off, upending the bike. A "split second" later Briggs was sprawled out on the street.

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"I've been told so many times that you're supposed to roll," he said.

"You're supposed to tuck your head in and roll. But as you can see [in the photograph] my hands are sticking out like I'm about to land on them."

Uninjured, Briggs continued to compete in his fourth Heritage Bicycle Championship races.

The crowds reaction to Oliver Briggs' spectacular tumble from his penny farthing. Photo / Hamish MacLean
The crowds reaction to Oliver Briggs' spectacular tumble from his penny farthing. Photo / Hamish MacLean

"The first year I tried it, I actually ended up having a major crash, and breaking the bike in half," he said.

"And it was only just a little bit bent this year."

After the crash, Briggs finished first in the penny-farthing Tyne St grunter up the Tyne St hill and won the title in the penny-farthing men's national open, beating everyone else in the circuit race around the precinct. Earlier in the day, Briggs won the penny-farthing slow race and placed second in the penny-farthing sprints.

Sprints winner John Davey, of Christchurch, placed second in the slow race and won the slalom race on a penny-farthing he designed himself and had manufactured in Melbourne, Australia, two weeks before the races.