A 70-year break does not seem to have done Bill Sutherland’s cycling career any harm.
The 82-year-old came first in the Cycling New Zealand Age Group Road National Championships 80 years and over event, held recently near Hokitika.
He came first in the 15km time trial and 35km road race.
Sutherland said his father and uncles were keen cyclists in Christchurch in the days when winning a race could earn a cyclist more money than a week’s wages.
“Dad and his three brothers were New Zealand champion cyclists just before and just after the war.
“I used to ride in the boys’ races in the sports meetings they went to,” Sutherland said.
He also was starting to win races, but then when he was about 12 years old his family moved to Waikaka to start Sutherland’s Transport.
“There was no money for any extra things and the closest cycling club was in Invercargill, so I played rugby like all the other country boys.”
When his grandson William, then 13, started competing in triathlons in 2012, he thought he could train with him and “keep him company”, he said.
“We went out the first day and he disappeared over the hill and I haven’t seen him since.”
He was not too discouraged, thinking in time he would get fitter.
“He got better faster than I did.”
He started out on a mountain bike but had had his share of injuries, including broken ribs.
“I fell off a few times.”
He later bought a road bike and in 2014 started entering Masters Games events.
He entered his first national age group championships in 2020 and came second.
In preparation for this year’s event he cycled about 150km a week.
He was “faster and stronger” than he had been in 2020.
He completed the time trial in just over 36min and the road race in 1hr 19min.
He was “chuffed” with the result and was planning on entering next year’s event, he said.
“I’m only getting better.”