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Local legend’s ride comes to an end

FLASHBACK: Brian Lambert with his wife Barbara after he cycled from Auckland to Wellington in 1984 in a record time that’s still standing. PHOTO/FILE

CYCLING

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Wairarapa’s cycling community is mourning the death of one of the sport’s local legends.

Brian Lambert died early Wednesday morning after a decades-long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 70.

Lambert became a legend in 1984 when he cycled the 650km from Auckland to Wellington in a record time of 19 hours, 59 minutes, and 27 seconds – a record that still stands.

Remarkably Lambert’s sustenance during the ride consisted of pies and Coca-Cola. However, his support crew couldn’t resist the temptation of food purchased on the journey.

They ate it all before they reached Whanganui, leaving Lambert to survive on fluids for the rest of the ride because there were no shops open when they rolled through the river city at 5am.

His time would have been even quicker again but for a fall when his bike slipped on a greasy railway line on Aotea Quay, only one kilometre from his destination.

Lambert’s preparation for the marathon journey was equally mind-boggling.

He would leave Masterton after work on 300km solo rides, which would take him north to Woodville, through the Manawatu Gorge, and then south to Kapiti, where he would stop for a cup of tea with a mate.

He would return home via the Akatarawa and Remutaka Hill roads before starting the next day’s work.

For variety, he would sometimes complete the route in the opposite direction.

Like most young Kiwis in the late 1950s, Lambert started riding to get around.

He gave it away for several years after leaving school and working in the mines in the Australian outback.

On returning to New Zealand, the urge to get on the bike was overwhelming, and Lambert’s famed endurance became evident with strict training regimes.

He competed in three Dulux seven-day races from Auckland to Wellington, with his best placing 15th.

In 1984, Lambert qualified for a proposed race across the US by finishing second in a qualifying race in California, which comprised of eight laps of a 100-mile circuit and was held in temperatures ranging from extreme heat to near freezing.

The main event, however, never went ahead after the main sponsors withdrew.

Lambert’s love for cycling saw him open a specialist cycle shop in Masterton in the mid-1980s, which he successfully ran until the onset of Parkinson’s became too much, and he sold it in 2012 to former employees — good friend Deb Allen, and Ben Knight.

Allen said Lambert drove a hard business and was a very successful businessman until he got Parkinson’s, which affected him for a long time.

“He still tried to do everything. He still had his bike, and he rode around town as much as he could. But the past couple of years, he hasn’t been able to because he’s fallen off too many times,” Allen said.

“That was the sort of attitude that nothing could beat him and if you said “you can’t do that Brian” that was all he needed to go and give it a go.”

Lambert continued to ride in bunch rides with his ACM Masterton clubmates and participated in fun rides, such as the Huri Huri Pedal for Parkinson’s rides.

He told the Times-Age in 2016 that it was important to keep fit and active with the disease, saying that was the best medicine there is.

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