Britain’s oldest cycling champion is eyeing up another title despite being 89 – and says he’ll never stop racing.
Walter Fowler racked up another win this month as he faced off younger riders to claim the crown in an over 80’s 2km (6561.68 feet) sprint race with a time of 3.17 minutes.
The retired marketing manager – known affectionately as Wally to friends – has cycled all over the world after taking up the hobby when he was aged 15 in 1949.
Walter, who has one grown-up son, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, believes he is Britain’s oldest competitive track cyclist.
He previously broke the record in a one-hour endurance race at the Geraint Thomas velodrome in Wales in 2019 in the 85-89 category covering 34.602km /21.5miles.
On Oct. 7 he beat dozens of cyclists when he won the 2km (6561.68 feet) pursuit event at the 2023 World Masters Track Championships in Manchester.
Walter, who says he plans to compete into his 90s, said: “My parents had no money in the Second World War and I had no bike until the slaughter was well and truly over.
“Then I had one and I couldn’t get enough of it. I must have cycled over a million miles in my life and I’ve enjoyed every one of them.
“What we had we earned and appreciated – my first bike came from a paper round.
“Now, more than 70 years later, life would not be normal or even acceptable if I could not, for any reason, ride my bike.
“It is nice, of course, to race, but it is certainly not necessary to win.
“Indeed, as every amateur knows, there is no stronger advocate and supporter in this enduring pastime than the one who knows before he starts that he may come last.
“He enters the event because he can and he likes it. It is his way of life and it is mine. It is a good life.
“My wife, Margaret, supported my cycling for 50 years and when she died in 2014 I resolved with her spirit to continue riding and racing.
“I hope to have a few more years doing the best I can in the masters’ framework that allows fair, age-related competition.
“If I cannot race, perhaps I shall find a mountain to climb.”
Walter, who turns 90 next April, is already eyeing his next challenge – to beat the world record one-hour endurance test for the over 90s.
The current record is held by America cyclist Carl Grove but Walter believes he can beat his 21.5 miles he set five years ago.
Walter said: “I’m one of the oldest champions, certainly British. I can’t claim the world as Carl Grove of America is currently number one but I’m coming for his record.
“I’ll have to be as good as I was when I was 84 but I believe I’ve still got it in me to beat the record. The secret to endurance tests is to keep the same pace throughout.
“It’s a mental as well as physical test but I have proved I can compete with people much younger than me so I just keep going.
“When you hit a certain rhythm during the test you do it almost automatically. I just try and keep going, not burst out too fast, and keep a steady speed throughout.”
The pensioner began cycling at 15 and began racing almost immediately, but had to give it up to focus on his career.
He toured the UK and Europe throughout the 70’s and 80’s but returned to racing at 74 after having an urge to compete.
Walter said: “I was still fit at the age of 74 but I had a niggling feeling if I was good enough to ride on track.
“When I was studying for the diploma in marketing the cycling tended to drop off. When I resumed again in the 70s it was in touring. It was the early 60s.
“Exercise has been very important to me. I do it every day. I spend half an hour doing it everyday. It’s part of building an adequate body. You can be prone to injury if not.
“I thought can I still do it. It was always my first love. I wanted to know if I could first sprint.
“I was all very fit from having cycled on the continent. I could take on racing more or less and immediately.
“When I came back to the track in 2007 I started on my old track bike that I bought in 1951. It did the job.
“There’s pride in being the oldest track champion but I don’t think about it much, I’ve been so used it for so long.”
Dave Viner, of Halesowen Athletic & Cycling Club, said: “Wally is an inspiration to any person who values good health and fitness in later years.
“To be a national age group champion in any sport – riding on a 45-degree world class cycle track at Manchester is something else.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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