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Cycling Festival Inspiring Community

Cycling Festival Inspiring Community

In just two years Christchurch’s Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling has become one of New Zealand’s premier cycling events. But it has also become a major community occasion inspiring hundreds of people from all walks of life.

Ten years ago Graham Egerton was given what amounted to a death sentence. He weighed 170 kilograms, was an alcoholic, suffered crippling back problems, could hardly walk to his front gate, and was told by doctors that he would never be able to work again. He was just 33.

This week Egerton signed up for the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling. The 43 year old now weighs in at 90kg, has just started his first job in more than a decade, and in the last five years has ridden close to 50,000 kilometres on his bike. In a land currently besieged by reports of increasing obesity, Graham Egerton is a stunning contrast.

Egerton is one of approximately 1500 riders currently training for the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling on December 2 and 3.
Egerton will ride the event with one of the people who helped him regain control over his life. But Salvation Army Employment Plus coordinator Ron Stuart says he has been even more inspired by Egerton.

In February this year Egerton started the Salvation Army Employment Plus programme designed to get people back in the work place. Stuart trains people for security placements; Egerton recently qualified as a Level 3 Security Guard and has been employed by Triton Security, his first true job in a decade.

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Stuart sees a lot of people with similar backgrounds to Egerton, and while many succeed he says this is the most wonderfully ironic case he’s ever been involved with.

“Triton Security have the security contract for Canterbury District Health Board,” grins Stuart. “So Graham is now guarding the place where he might have become a full-time patient.”

Indeed, Stuart has been so inspired by the commitment of the previously overweight and unemployable Egerton that he has started joining him on bike rides.

Egerton has used cycling to reclaim his life, losing more than 80kg over a five-year period. He attributes the benefits of the bike to changing his life. At the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling he is likely to be one of the fitter riders, which Ron Stuart says is yet another contrast and further credit to Egerton.

When Armstrong Peugeot organisers heard of Egerton’s impressive life change they encouraged him to ride the event. Egerton in turn encouraged Ron Stuart to progress from a commuter cyclist to a participant.

“People like this are what the Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling is all about,” says event organiser Simon Hollander. “When we first dreamed up this event the idea was to bring world class and recreational riders together to celebrate cycling. Graham Egerton is the kind of example that inspires participation.”

This route used for the Armstrong Peugeot Harbour Ride has been the must-do ride among Cantabrians since the 1930s. The challenging but achievable route has become the benchmark for Olympic medallists and mere mortals alike. But until last year there was no event celebrating the history behind this iconic piece of cycling history.

The Armstrong Peugeot Festival of Cycling rolls all that history and hubris into a celebration of cycling where weekend warriors rub shoulders with world champions around the regions icon ride.

The 75k Armstrong Peugeot Harbour Ride, on Saturday December 2, starts at McCormack’s Bay Reserve in Redcliffs and heads out around Cashmere, Halswell and Motukarara before climbing over Gebbies Pass to Lyttelton Harbour. The course then undulates along the northern bays and through Lyttelton itself, before climbing Evans Pass for a final stretch down through Sumner to finish back at McCormack’s Bay Reserve.

The following morning the Armstrong Peugeot City Criterium will bring a taste of European cycling to Christchurch with an exciting morning of multi-lap racing around the inner city’s café strip. The event will feature the New Zealand Criterium Championship, but also events for riders of any ability, including a celebrity tandem fundraising race for Cure Kids NZ.

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