632km of tarmac all in a day's ride

PERPETUAL MOTION: Colin Anderson plans to celebrate his 65th birthday by riding 65 laps of Lake Taupo over the next three months.
PERPETUAL MOTION: Colin Anderson plans to celebrate his 65th birthday by riding 65 laps of Lake Taupo over the next three months.

Colin Anderson must have been pretty wicked in the years before he discovered cycling, because there's been no rest for him since. Hamish Bidwell reports.

Even at 65, there's still a youthful, restless energy about Colin Anderson.

Barely a minute of the Palmerston North postie's day is wasted. If he's not delivering mail, he's on a training ride or raising money for charity or in the midst of his latest quest for a world or national record in the realm of ultra-distance cycling.

Anderson talks a mile a minute too. Or at least he did until The Dominion Post asked him exactly what he likes about the sport he's built the last 25 years of his life around.

"I must enjoy it," Anderson said, after a lengthy silence.

"I guess I don't think about it. I just roll from one ride to the next."

The start to this year has been busier than usual, but only slightly. Turning 65 made Anderson think he ought to do a couple of things to signify his age, which led to last month's attempt on the world 12-hour record for the 60-69 age-group, on the velodrome at Feilding's Johnstone Park.

He duly achieved it, covering 353km, then carried on to set a "benchmark" for 24 hours. It wasn't a record because "no-one's actually bothered to do it before".

Anderson had wanted to ride 650km over the 24 hours, but the blustery weather meant 632km was "all" he could muster.

He would have waited for a calmer day, but in order for the 12-hour record to be official, Anderson had to nominate a day two weeks in advance, as part of the ratification process stipulated by ultra-distance officials in the United States.

"I had nine guys who had to sit exams by email from the States and they weren't allowed to support me in any shape or form. They were just there to clock that everything was going properly," Anderson said.

"We had three sets of electronic timing and I don't know how many sheets of paper went back to the States, but there were literally hundreds of forms. But that's good, it means it's a level playing field around the world and there's no argy bargy."

Anderson took the odd comfort stop, but there was no sleeping during the 24 hours.

"No, 24 hours is a doddle to stay awake, but much more than that and I start to wander a bit. When I did the Cape Reinga to Bluff I went the first 32 hours before I went to sleep."

That was when Anderson was 59 and he set a record of four days 17 hours and 40 minutes for the 2158km route.

His conversation is littered with casual references to feats like that, including 1200km rides in Europe and North America over the years. Spending 66 hours pedalling across France is no mean feat especially given Anderson has survived cancer, is riddled with arthritis and was a committed smoker and drinker when he first hopped on a bike 25 years ago.

After months of training, 45km was still the longest ride he could manage back then, but it didn't stop him from deciding to tackle the 160km Lake Taupo cycle challenge. A love affair was born and Anderson has been back to the event 24 times, clocking 67 laps of the lake.

Eight is the most he's managed in one day and now the challenge is to ride 65 in the next three months, starting on Monday. As he has always done, Anderson will be trying to raise money at the same time and all proceeds from the 65 laps will be going to CanTeen.

Someone has already donated $3000 and Anderson is hopeful of having a sizeable cheque to present after the 10,400km ride.

"That gives it a bit more impetus and means I'm not just some silly old sausage going out for a ride," he said.

Anderson will take the laps pretty slowly, budgeting on seven-hour circuits, taking into account a couple of stops for coffee and a stretch of the legs. When the mood takes him he'll probably have the odd two-lap day as well.

"I've had to rent a house for three months and take time off work from New Zealand Post, so it's an expensive undertaking. But it's something I wanted to do ... I'm looking forward to it."

The Dominion Post