Memories of a golden era
Cycling brothers made their mark
As Cycling New Zealand recoils from another controversy and all involved in high-performance sport nowadays, escape is at hand.
Des Williams, chronicler extraordinaire of cycling in New Zealand, has published 'Des & Richie Thomson, Two Big Wheels', the story of the Horowhenua brothers who made such a rich contribution to their sport in the amateur, less results-driven era of the 1960s.
It is difficult to imagine, for all the trappings associated with the undoubted success New Zealand cycling has enjoyed recently, that today's riders will create enduring memories of fun and competition with their mates than what Williams has recorded with the Thomsons.
Professionalism may have its advantages but the days of amateurism provided rewards and memories of their own, as they competed for their sheer love of their sport and without the overbearing crush of administrators and handlers monitoring their every move.
Riders applied much of their own initiative in their quest for opportunities. The risk and rewards were all their own. They didn't have specialist help to aid them along the way. It was tough, but it produced self-reliance in the school of hard knocks, and the Thomson stories are evidence of that.
Williams has become the chronicler of the sport in New Zealand. His earlier Born to Thunder was a triumph. More recently, his biography of Paul Jesson, 'Oh, THAT tour!' told the story of a rider who seemed destined to be among the greatest of all Kiwi riders.
Sadly, a tragic accident ended his professional career, but the book was a reminder of the triumph of the spirit as Jesson recovered and took on other challenges.
Now, he has turned his attention to the Thomson brothers with all the memories of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, Dulux, Southland and Manawatu tours, national and regional championships, their overseas experiences, and their efforts on tours of New Caledonia.
It is a fascinating yarn that captures the cycling of the time with all its characters and incidents while telling the stories, good and bad, of their triumphs and tragedies.
Their post-career lives are not shunned and reveal that, like the surfer who cannot put his board away, so the cyclist still likes the chance to compete. Age-grade competition has made that possible, and Des Thomson's competitive urges have been met.
Anyone with the slightest interest in the sport through their era will find plenty to savour in Williams' account. The story is well supported by illustrations.
Another achievement, more in the labour of love category than anything else, is Williams' dogged work in tracking down all the results from the North Island tours between 1953 and 1995.
Every stage winner, all entrants, results - times and points, are provided in a statistical resource that deserves to find a place in many family collections.
Des and Richie Thomson, Two Big Wheels by Des Williams. Published by Last Side Publishing, Hamilton 2022
Results Summary: The North Island Tours 1953-1995, compiled by Des Williams.