Date: Wednesday, 20 January 2016

At 75 years old Barry Harcourt says he is more competitive than ever.

The veteran cyclist has never been shy of making a comeback over the years, and it seems his latest tilt is proving as successful as ever.

Harcourt was a leading New Zealand cyclist through the 1960s, and in 1981 recorded his cycling highlight when he won the World Masters Road Race in Belgium.

It was a feat which resulted in him being named Southland Sportsperson of the Year.

Fifty-odd years on from his prime, and while most 75-year-olds put their feet up, Harcourt still has the urge for more world titles.

The UCI Amateur Road World Championships will be held in Perth in September and Harcourt has his eye on the 70-plus age group title.

The long-serving former Southland Times chief photographer, who is now retired and living in Te Anau, got back on his bike in May last year.

Originally the return was just to take part in the annual Queenstown to Invercargill Westpac Chopper Appeal ride.

"I did that with not many miles under the belt and that was 250km, I sort of got the urge after that to try and do a bit more," he said.

Harcourt now pedals between 300km and 400km a week in training and has lost 20kg since May.

The Harcourt comeback took off in September when he headed home a field of 50 to win the Gore to Waikiwi Classic for the first time.

His next assignment is Thursday night's Gore to Invercargill Classic - a race Harcourt personally regards as special.

He has won it twice - the first in 1978 after a 13-year layoff from riding. The victory come while riding off a five-minute handicap.

Harcourt's second victory came in 1984, a year after his then 16-year-old son Steven also won the race.

"It has always been a prestigious race, it is one of the oldest classics in the country. Even now it is the most prestigious classic Southland has got."

Harcourt has his eye on equalling Trevor McLeay's record of three Gore to Invercargill Classic titles.

He is not one to show up to simply make up the numbers.

"I'm pretty competitive, I'm probably more competitive than I've ever been. I train hard, I like to be able to go as good as I can and have some sort of result at the end of the day," he said.

Harcourt's remarkable ability at his age is sure to provide the handicapper with a dilemma.

At 75, and the oldest in the race, it seems a no-brainer he would start off the front mark. But Harcourt is not your traditional 75-year-old.

"It all depends on the handicap and also the wind direction," he said about his chances.

"Generally with that race, if it's a tail win those on the front mark have a pretty good ride and have a good chance of taking it out. But if it is a head wind, or blowing from the west, the back markers always go through and catch the front markers."

Thursday night's race will be his first Gore to Invercargill Classic in five years.

"I made a semi comeback five years ago, I never trained that well but I was in the leading group until we got caught at the Kennington Hill and the scratch bunch went past us."

There will be little time for rest for Harcourt given he has also entered to ride in the Eglinton Challenge as part of the Milford Classic on Saturday.

Following that he will get ready to compete on both the track and road at the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin later this month.

AT A GLANCE

What: Gore to Invercargill Classic

Where: Starts at Gore Town & Country Club, finishes at Racecourse Road, Invercargill

When: Thursday, 6pm start, 8pm finish (approx)

Article courtesy Stuff

 

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