Peter Degraaf might have been the oldest rider at the Bluewater International Granfondo, but he sure didn’t feel like it.
“I don’t think of it as an age thing,” said the 82-year-old Point Edward resident, who was joined by three of his brothers at the third annual cycling event, which drew 900 riders to Bright’s Grove.
Degraaf participated in the men’s 65-plus division. His time of 16.30 in the timed section placed him 9th among the 31 riders who completed the 50-kilometre route, and among the top one-third of all-aged riders.
Degraaf said he had so much fun last year he invited his brothers to come along this time around.
“All four of us have been quite active throughout our lives,” he said.
John, 79, and Frank, 80, placed 23rd and 24th respectively in the time trial.
Dick, 74, rode in the longer 100-kilometre event for men 65 and older and finished 31st.
Between them, the brothers have conquered dozens of marathon races from Boston to New York and mastered everything from pole vaulting to roller-blading.
Missing from the family outing were sister Tina, and youngest brother, Paul, who lives in British Columbia.
“He is a great athlete, and we are going to try to persuade him to join us in the Granfondo in 2019,” said Degraaf.
Born in the Netherlands, the six siblings immigrated to Canada with their parents in 1952.
Degraaf spent five years in the navy and has been self-employed buying and selling coins since 1962. He moved to Sarnia from Ottawa 20 years ago.
He has dabbled in everything from speed skating to winter and summer triathlons, and most recently took up cycling and rollerblading.
“I stopped doing the marathons around age 70,” said Degraaf. “For no other reason other than I just enjoyed cycling and roller-blading more. I try to get out for an hour every day.”
The real thrill of the Aug. 5 granfondo was participating in it with his brothers, he said.
A granfondo, Italian for “big ride,” is a mass participation cycling event that originated in Europe and has been growing in popularity in North America
Proceeds from the local ride support palliative care at Bluewater Health and St. Joseph’s Hospice — where Degraaf met his wife Carol during a bereavement seminar.
“I thank the Lord every day that I am healthy,” he said. “And I’ll keep enjoying it as long as I can.”