Helping to build the velodrome near Cambridge inspired Grant Tyrrell to buy a track bike, which then led him to the masters world championships and winning a heap of medals.
Grant has recently returned from the UCI Track Cycling Masters World Championships in Manchester, England, armed with five medals in the 55-59 age group: silver in the individual pursuit, in which he set a New Zealand record; silver in the points race; silver in the scratch race; bronze in the team pursuit (with Neil Familton, from Invercargill, and two other cyclists from Chile and South Africa); and bronze in the team sprint (with Neil and a cyclist from Russia).
Grant became hooked on cycling when he was 14 and living in Tokoroa. “One Sunday I was riding down the road and a guy passed me on his road bike and asked if I wanted to ride in a club race … they gave me a big handicap and I won it, and was hooked ever since.”
The Manchester event was the first time the cycling fanatic has entered a world championship, although he has competed internationally in mountain biking and road cycling events, and is the only New Zealander to have won national titles in mountain biking, road cycling and track cycling.
Grant says he has been cycling for 40 years but had taken about 10 years off.
A builder by trade, he got back into cycling competitively after he helped build the track at the Avantidrome.
He was asked by Livingstone Construction, which had the contract to build the Avantidrome, if he wanted to help a German crew hired to do the job.
“I said yeah! You never get a chance to build a velodrome!
“It took seven weeks from start to finish, building the actual track.
“Once the track was built and they started using it, I thought I’m going to get a track bike.
“I got back with people I used to ride with in the 70s and 80s.”
At the beginning of this year, he entered the Waikato track championships, “and won all the events in my age group”.
Next came the national championships in March, in which he won three titles: the scratch race; the points race and the 500m time trial.
He was told by a cycling mate: “You know that time you did in the individual pursuit, that would have got you third in the worlds … You should go to the worlds, go to the worlds.”
Grant says: “That was pretty much the decision to train for the worlds.”
Wanting to improve on his times at the Waikato and national championships, Grant was trained by the head track coach of Cycling New Zealand, his mate Dayle Cheatley.
“He put a heap of time into me.
“I was training with the national squad. Well, trying to hang on to them, all those young fellows. Pretty motivational stuff.”
He says he trained solidly from April for the October 3-10 event.
The UCI Track Cycling Masters World Championships is open to anyone over the age of 35, but all the riders who go are “doing world-class times”.
Grant was sponsored by Hamilton business Speedworks Ltd – they gave him his bike, clothing and equipment – and, he says with a laugh, by his wife, Jeanette, who went with him to Manchester.
There were 50 riders in Grant’s age group, and he won medals in all five of the events he entered.
There were four other Kiwi riders, and altogether the New Zealand contingent won 14 medals, including two world championship titles for Erin Criglington, from Invercargill.
“It was awesome, really well organised, no mucking around,” Grant says of the world championships.
Now he’s back home and back on his bike, usually for a quick whiz out to Whale Bay to keep the pedals turning.