Roi Speed has chosen the later years of life to live up to her surname. The self confessed ‘non-sporty kid’ recently notched up an impressive achievement – setting a new World Hour Record for women aged 70-75 track cycling at Avantidrome in Cambridge.
Not a bad effort for someone who only took up cycling a few years ago!
When Roi retired, her plans revolved around plenty of gardening with husband John on their on sprawling property on the outskirts of Hamilton. She had no intention whatsoever of taking up a fresh interest – let alone cycling.
However, most days she and John are familiar and welcome faces at Avantidrome.
It was an open day at the impressive Avantidrome venue which set things in motion. Roi and John had gone along purely with the intention of having a nosey at the building that had been the subject of much public conversation.
Part of the open day celebrations were demonstrations and Have-A-Go events. Somehow Roi and John (both 71) found themselves agreeing to have a try.
“This was after we’d looked at the banked corners inside on the track and literally said to our guide that you would have to have rocks in your head to ride a bike on that,” she laughs.
“He talked John and I into doing a Have a Go session, and that literally changed all of our tomorrows.”
Roi and John now ride on the track three or four times a week, and are official track coaches, helping and encouraging others to ride.
“As much as the riding is fantastic for our health, the social contact with like-minded people of all ages is equally important for us,” says John.
That original Have-a-Go day sticks in Roi’s mind as one of the most exciting and amazing things they’ve ever done.
“We were immediately hooked. It was a real adrenaline rush.”
When they started riding on the track, it was purely for fun, then it became for fun and fitness as they started seeing pretty rapid improvements in their health and fitness.
“We were never sporty types and didn’t even own road bikes.”
The couple have gone on to compete in the New Zealand Age Group Nationals and World Masters Games (aged 70) and more recently Roi set a new World Hour Record for women aged 70-75. They both won national titles in the 70-75 age group at the Vantage Windows & Doors Age Group Track National Championships and Roi took home silver from the World Masters Games.
“It’s definitely hard to believe,” she says. “I never would have dreamed of achieving something like that, but it does go to show that regardless of your age you can always try something new, set some goals and achieve them.”
John and Roi say they have never been so fit, and enjoy every moment cycling. However, after a particularly intense training schedule heading into her world record attempt, Roi is enjoying the opportunity to tame her garden (after some months of neglect) and take a slightly slower pace, just cycling for pure enjoyment at the moment.
However, training will notch up again soon, with Waikato/BOP Age Group Championships and New Zealand Age Group Nationals to train for in 2019.
“While gold medals and setting a world record have been absolutely exhilarating, I’ve equally been so appreciative of the huge amount of support from so many people. There is a real cycling community here, with endless encouragement, and that really makes all the difference.”
Roi particularly credits her best friend, husband and cycling companion John – who endlessly champions and supports her.
“For the world record attempt, the biggest challenge was the mental focus to ride for an hour around and around in the same direction. John cheered me on the whole way.
“Also we have 10 grandchildren, so I started out with the intent of riding 10 laps per grandchild and that got me well underway and into it.
“At the end, it was pretty hard. The technique is to hold the black line around the bottom of the track, but on those last corners I was well above the black line. I was so tired I just couldn’t hold my line, so it probably cost me 50 metres in the end and some time. “
The Avantidrome has become their home away from home, where the couple are well known and respected and have become an integral part of the team there.