Reg Rye made history at the World Masters Games.
Aside from being the oldest New Zealand WMG competitor, he became the first person in the world, and the only one in his age group, to ride the 500m time trial, and the 2000m individual pursuit cycling events at the Avantidrome. Although Reg turned 95 in June, weeks after the event, he was able to compete in the M 95+ category as age groups are determined by a competitor’s age as at December 31, 2017.
“I didn’t do the times I had hoped for, but that didn’t matter because I still made a world record.”
Reg ended up at the games because his trainer Mike van Enter– who is also manager at the Avanti Bike Shop at the Avantidrome – asked him if he’d like to become a world champ. Once past the “are you being serious” moment, Reg exercised his characteristic mix of caution and grit. “I asked a few people, including my GP, if I should do it, and then decided to just go for it.”
He trained predominantly on his road bike, riding up and down his long tar-seal driveway and on the roads around St Kilda. He kept up his gym training at the Avantidrome, pounding away on the exercycles, the he’d sit and chew the cud with Mike at the bike shop before heading home.
“This is my second home,” he admitted.
A founding and life member of the Cambridge Athletics and Harriers Club, Reg stopped cycling in the mid-1940s, but returned to it to fill a void left after he lost his wife Joy a few years ago.
“I came out here when the track was still unfinished, just to have a look. A couple of people in the foyer suggested I fill in a form, so I did.”
Later, coach Dean Foreman asked the then 91-year-old Reg if he wanted to have a go on the track.
“Dean had his hand on the bike that first time, but I finished up doing four laps. I came back for more two days later. That led me to meeting up with Mike and buying a bike, really just to keep fit and give me something to do.”
From those inauspicious beginnings to the Masters Games and a world champion title … through it all Reg has boosted his fitness and found friendship and satisfaction through cycling.
And there’s no stopping him yet. Reg has his eye on the next World Masters Games in Japan in four years’ time, and is currently training to beat the record set by a 105-year-old Frenchman to ride 22.5km in one hour.
“I’m looking at doing 28-30km; I’ll know when I’m ready. I will keep going until I can’t do it anymore, and I like having something to work towards.”