Cycling Festival Inspiring Community

Published: Wed 26 Nov 2008 02:30 PM
Cycling Festival Inspiring Community
In just four years Christchurch’s Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling has become one of New Zealand’s premier cycling events. But it has also become a major community occasion inspiring hundreds of people from all walks of life.
Ten years ago Graham Egerton was given what amounted to a death sentence. He weighed 170 kilograms, was an alcoholic, suffered crippling back problems, could hardly walk to his front gate, and was told by doctors that he would never be able to work again. He was just 33.
This week Egerton signed up for his third Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling on December 6 and 7. He will be one of approximately 1500 starters, but while motivations for most of the cyclists revolve around competition, personal best times or reclaiming lost fitness, Egerton has used cycling to reclaim his life.
In a land currently besieged by reports of increasing obesity, Graham Egerton is an illustration of how people can turn their lives around. The 45 year old now weighs in just under 100kg and in the last seven years has ridden close to 50,000 kilometres. After a decade of being unable to work he has been back in the work force now for two years employed as a security officer with a company that contracts to Canterbury District Health.
The irony of guarding the very institution that he might have ended up is not lost on Egerton. But it is cycling, and in particular the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling, that has become Egerton’s passion. He first completed the event in 2006, when he lost an incredible 80kg and finished despite a broken hand.
“I had crashed a few weeks before and broken my hand in four places,” he says with a grin. “But I didn’t tell anyone. I’d worked so hard to be lose weight and train for the event, and I was afraid they wouldn’t let me ride if they heard about my broken hand.”
Finishing that year’s event, in a respectable 2hrs 49min for the 80k ride, was a life-changing day. “Until then cycling had been something to help me lose weight. But after that cycling became a bit of a passion. Whenever I have spare time I’m off on my bike and into the hills,” he says.
He rode the Armstrong Peugeot Harbour Ride again last year, improving his time to 2hrs 41min, and his daughter Mikayla also participated in the SBS Kid’s Mini-Bays ride. They are both entered again for 2008 and Egerton looks forward to the day she can ride the full 80k Harbour Ride with him.
But for now his goal is to break 2hrs 30min for this year’s Armstrong Peugeot Harbour Ride. “I can’t wait,” enthuses Egerton. I can feel the excitement building now.”
He’ll be riding the same Avanti road bike that a friend gave him three years ago. “It was a mate who’s done the Coast to Coast and stuff,” explains Egerton. “He reckoned he was inspired by what I had achieved and he’d rather give it me than sell it to someone else.”
“People like this are what the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling is all about,” says event organiser Simon Hollander. “When we first dreamed up this event the idea was to bring world class and recreational riders together to celebrate cycling. Graham Egerton is the kind of example that inspires participation.”
The 80k Armstrong Peugeot Harbour Ride, on Saturday December 6, starts at McCormack’s Bay Reserve in Redcliffs and heads out around Cashmere, Halswell and Motukarara before climbing over Gebbies Pass to Lyttelton Harbour. The course then undulates along the northern bays and through Lyttelton itself, before climbing Evans Pass for a final stretch down through Sumner to finish back at McCormack’s Bay Reserve.
This route has been the must-do ride among Cantabrians since the 1930s. The challenging but achievable course has become the benchmark for Olympic medallists and mere mortals alike. The Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling rolls all that history and hubris into a celebration of cycling where weekend warriors rub shoulders with world champions around the regions icon ride.
On Sunday December 7 the Armstrong Peugeot City Criterium will bring a taste of European cycling to Christchurch with an exciting morning of multi-lap racing around the inner city’s café strip. The event will feature the New Zealand Criterium Championship, but also includes events for riders of any ability, including kids races and a celebrity tandem fundraising race for Cure Kids NZ.
Entries are still open for the 2008 Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling and organisers hope to see more than 1500 people on the start line.

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