Pa as Belgian amateur champion in 1945
The moment I married into a Belgian family I soon realised I was expected to ride a bike. Little did I know when I first met my "wife to be" in a French ski resort in 1984 that cycling was such an integral part of the Belgian way of life - and even more telling was the fact that her father was a former professional cyclist from the late 1940's to mid 1950's - think Fausto Coppi, Ferdi Kubler, and Stan Ockers, who were all cycling legends he raced against.
So after marrying Ingrid in Brugge in 1986, my cycling career began in earnest at age 29 - with a single objective in mind - how was I ever going to beat my ex pro father-in-law, 30 years my senior and affectionately known as Pa?!
As fortune would have it, Ingrid & I relocated to Europe for 4 years in our early to mid 30s and I had the opportunity to join Pa's cycling club in Brugge. The next 4 years were spent learning the rules of the peleton and cycling some of the iconic race routes of the Benelux countries - like the Tour of Flanders, the Amstel Gold Race, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
These experiences gave me a valuable insight into the sport of cycling and the benefits it has for people of all ages. Here was I in my early 30's trying to keep up with guys (and girls) of all ages - from youngsters in their late teens to the "older & bolder" well into their 60's and 70's. It was amazing to witness the strength and endurance of many of the older riders and the great sense of camaraderie they enjoyed as being part of their cycling network. Maybe the strong Belgian beer helped their cause at times as well - I used to shake my head when we'd stop after the first 50 kms of a 150 km ride and while I'd grab a coffee, some of the hardened Flemish old timers would share a 10 degree Belgian Trappist - hardy stuff!
Pa at 81 atop Siding Spring
Observatory near Coonabarabran
Our love of cycling has simply grown over the last 3 decades and today Ingrid & I are still committed "weekend warriors" cycling the different trails through Ku-ring-gai National Park on week-ends, and I join a commuting group from Mona Vale to the city 2-3 times a week. It adds up to a few kilometres each week - but that pales next to the efforts of Pa. He's age 90 now and he still rides with his cycling club in Brugge - he's powered by an electronic bike these days but he still revels in his cycling network. For me it's been a great life lesson in staying active, keeping in touch with your networks, and making the most of life at every turn – he has been and continues to be a true inspiration.
P.S. BTW I only beat my ex pro father-in-law finally when he reached his early 70's - I was 42!!