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Kiwi competes in Unicycling’s ‘Tour de France’

Kiwi competes in Unicycling’s ‘Tour de France’


by Jane de Jong


Tony Melton

Unicycle enthusiast Tony Melton is gearing up for Nova Scotia’s Ride The Lobster race, on June 16.

Competing in the NZUni team with two other kiwis, Melton is training hard for the 5 day race which spans 800km.

“The Unicycle stage race is the first of its kind in the world. It’s a speed and endurance road race, the Tour de France for unicycles.”

Each three-person team in the race is given a GPS system, and their progress will be tracked online, at ridethelobster.com.

To train for the event Melton goes for 30km rides twice a week, which take around one and a half hours. He also trains with 50 and 60km rides to build up stamina.

The unicycle.com founder has been riding since 1990 and has placed in a number of world events.

Specialising in off road unicycling, he says, “The longest ride I’ve ever done was from Wanaka to Haast, on the West Coast. It took nearly 12 hours, with breath breaks and stops along the way.”

He says his proudest moment was coming third in the off road downhill race of the last world unicycling championship, Unicon 2006.

He also came first in the 30-39 year old males division at Unicon 2006.

Wellington won the bid to host next year’s Unicon championship, and Melton says unicycling is becoming more popular in New Zealand.

“It’s definitely growing. If you compared riders with active riders five years ago, you’d see a very different scene. New Zealand, even though it’s a very small country, has very good riders, who have done well at the competitions.”

He mentions Peter Van Boekhout, who broke the unicycling long jump world record with a 280cm jump, in 2006.

He adds there is a network of unicyclers in New Zealand, who can ride in different styles including Artistic Freestyling or even play Unicycling Basketball.

“Most of the good riders know each other. There are probably 25 to 30 really skilled riders in New Zealand, and then there are other riders who have learnt through schools. There are probably hundreds of riders all up.”

Melton meets with fellow unicyclers, jugglers, and twenty-something-year-old tricksters pulling tablecloths out from china every Wednesday night at Ponsonby’s Leys Institute Gym.

Practicing their craft to a speaker blaring loud hip-hop, the entertainers come together informally to perfect their craft and learn new skills together in a tight-knit community.

*************

Jane de Jong is a Journalism Student at AUT

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