Masters Games: 94-year-old races, carefully, to victory

By Grant Chapman

Reg Rye rode alone. In his 95th year, he had no one to pursue. Photo / Supplied
Reg Rye rode alone. In his 95th year, he had no one to pursue. Photo / Supplied

As Reg Rye stood on the side of the Cambridge Avantidrome track and waved to his adoring crowd, a dream was realised.

New Zealand's oldest competitor at the World Masters Games 2017 had just completed eight laps of the 250-metre track in a little more than five minutes - 5m 05.391s, to be exact, at an average speed of 23.576km/h - to capture a gold medal in the Men's 95+ 200m individual pursuit.

He rode alone. In his 95th year, he had no one to pursue - he was also the oldest cyclist competing at the Games.

Despite taking up the sport just three years ago, Rye was seemingly unfazed by the occasion, carefully lapping the blue zone just below the steeply banked walls of the track, focused on that medal waiting at the end.

Did he ever have any doubts?

"Never," he insisted afterwards. "The second-to-last lap, I was starting to get a bit pooped, but that spurred me on a little bit."

Rye was motivated to begin cycling after the death of his wife, seeking the services of local bike shop manager Michael Van Enter as his coach.

Moments before the start of his ride, Rye whispered in Van Enter's ear: "Thank you for everything you have done for me."

Clearly, Rye is a very determined character and getting him this far hadn't been a totally smooth ride.

"Michael told me what he wanted me to do. I found out I couldn't do it exactly how he wanted me to, but I did his way my may," he winked. "It's worked out pretty good, hasn't it?

"If anyone else that's 95 wants to give it a go, they're going to have to work for it. That makes me happy.

"I'm pleased it's over though."

Van Enter was a little anxious for his young-at-heart charge, who has also flown a plane, but never actually landed one ... yet.

"Eight laps is a long way for someone his age and my worst fear was that he would come off," said the coach. "But he just stuck to the plan."

This morning, Rye will be encouraged to throw caution to the wind for the 500 metres time trial - just two laps.

"That [will] be harder, because I'll be trying to pedal as fast as I can all the way and that's hard work."

The track announcer probably summed it up best, proclaiming that this performance should inspire a nation to get active.

But asked to reveal the secret to a fit and healthy life, Rye was taken aback.

"Well, I can't answer that, because I don't know. I have done well, though, haven't I?"Grant Chapman

- NZ Herald

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