Cyclist saddles up for title

DESPITE toppling off several times at last year's National Penny Farthing Championships, Michael Sullivan is determined to compete in this year's event.

The iconic race meeting, which will be held at Evandale on Saturday, February 22, is now in its 32nd year.

Mr Sullivan has never missed competing in the championships.

The penny farthing enthusiast said distancing himself from the annual event would be incredibly difficult.

``The races go right past our front door,'' he said.

``You'd be fairly peeved if you missed out, and you couldn't help but wonder whether you could ride faster than the people whizzing past.''

Between 50 and 60 riders of varying skills and abilities are expected at this year's championships.

Some come for the glory, while others can barely make it around the block.

Mr Sullivan will compete in the highly competitive over-60s race category.

``We've been that way since most of us were going head-to-head in the over-40s group,'' he said.

``I came fourth last year and that wasn't good enough. 

``I'm hoping for a medal this year.''

Mr Sullivan is weighing up his options to ensure he is alongside those at the start line on the big day.

Among his ideas is building a slightly smaller penny farthing than the one he rode last year.

``The theory is the bigger the wheel, the further and faster you go so you get a bike as big as you can possibly ride,'' he said.

``The trouble is that when you reach your twilight years, getting on the thing isn't quite as easy as it might have once been.''

But with parts only starting to arrive, and at least a month's labour in building a bike, Mr Sullivan may have to rely on an older, heavier penny farthing.

``However, the heavier bike won't give me much chance against the other riders, so it probably won't do either.

``I think I just need to get out and practise my starts; training is what I need, I'd say. 

``The mind is willing but the body has to follow,'' he said.

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