Frank on his way to work at Unitec.

I met Frank Webb last year at a bike pitstop at Unitec, where he’s worked for the last 30 years. He looked pretty dapper in his shirt sleeves, so I asked if I could take a photo. Frank laughed about how far he didn’t ride to work, as he lives only a few blocks away.

Little did I realise at the time… behind the mild-mannered office guy appearance hides a super man, who not only rides long distances whenever he can, but is about to set off on a 700km ride around the South Island to raise money for a very good cause.

Here’s Frank’s story: 

I took up distance cycling a couple of years ago, after having to give up running because of wear and tear of the knees, so am fairly new to the discipline. In 2015, a friend of mine persuaded me to join him in the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, a 160 km ride around the lake. I asked him how may days we had to do that distance. ‘Days, days…? One day!’ was his response, ‘and preferably within 8 hours.’  After another pint, I gave in and said I’d join him.

Training began in earnest, and after a couple of 50 km rides, it was suggested I purchase a road bike, as my old mountain bike wasn’t going to cut it. TradeMe obliged and I managed to get something reasonable second hand, bought my first pair of lycra pants and joined the other OMIL’s cruising the waterfront.

Frank finishing Taupo in 2015
Frank finishing Taupo in 2015

After lots of training and coffee, I managed to knock the race off in just over seven hours. It rained for three hours at the start, which was not my idea of fun, but a sore posterior was the only injury. Apparently, there are people who go round twice in the time I took!

After Taupo, I decided to hang up the lycra and concentrate on biking to the various boutique breweries around town… but whilst sampling a new brew, the same colleague who conned me into doing Taupo got me at a weak point in the evening and persuaded me to sign up for a cycle tour around the South Island.

He didn’t mention anything about it being a race, and omitted to say that I would have to create a page to manage donations to a good cause, neither of which activities were on my bucket list. Never mind; I had to don the lycra again and start training in earnest, the fruits of which will be put to the test very soon.

The Tour of New Zealand ride starts on 1 April, and my fundraising page is here.  

To prepare for such a strenuous ride, a strict regime of training was needed, so I completed three sessions of spin a week followed by at least one long bike ride of 100km (or more) with my 5-person team, called the Forlorn Hope. These rides normally started at 7am on Saturdays.

We chose the Waitakere ranges as the area that could provide enough hill climbs, which, when aggregated, would simulate the closest approximation to the South Island hills. Our team’s motto is ‘Hills are our friends’ and the Waiatarua radio mast is a familiar staging point. One of the training rides took us over the Waitakere ranges to Kumeu, Riverhead, Albany, Takapuna, Devonport and back to Mt Albert. The last ride was 106 km, a 5 hour adventure with an aggregate climb of 2000m.

Frank (in red) and his team the 'Forlorn Hope' at the Waiatarua Mast in the Waitakeres.
Frank (in red) and his team the ‘Forlorn Hope’ at the Waiatarua Mast in the Waitakeres.

Whilst attending one of my training debriefs at a local watering hole opposite the Pt Chevalier library, I had to undertake an unexpected high intensity training run to recover my bike. I had left it outside the library, unlocked, under the watchful gaze of a colleague; nevertheless, it proved too much of a temptation for the local lads, who made off with it without my permission.

After chasing the lad down the hill to the local petrol station, but losing him in the adjacent housing area, it was decided to extend the search area. By this time, a friend had joined me and we moved into the local residential street in close pursuit. Eventually, the bike was recovered from behind the local intermediate school, after the culprits were stopped and questioned. We celebrated the successful recovery mission upon our return to the debrief location on hour or so later.

The links below will take you to the donations page, should you feel like contributing to a worthy cause… I hope I get to the finish in one piece!

Donate here to support the good work of TearfundNZ, and Frank’s irrepressible good spirit! 

Frank at the top of the West Coast Road, and clearly at the top of his game.
Bike People
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