Hubert Opperman


Hubert Opperman

Infobox Cyclist
ridername = Hubert Opperman



image_caption =
fullname = Sir Hubert Ferdinand Opperman
nickname =
dateofbirth = birth date|1904|5|29|df=y
dateofdeath = death date and age|1996|4|24|1904|5|29|df=y
country = AUS
height =
weight =
currentteam =
discipline = Road & Track
role = Rider
ridertype = Endurance
amateuryears =
amateurteams =
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proteams =
majorwins =
updated = 13 April 2008

Sir Hubert Ferdinand Opperman OBE (29 May 1904 - 24 April 1996), referred to as Oppy by Australian and French crowds, was an Australian cyclist and politician, whose endurance cycling feats in the 1920s and 1930s earned him international acclaim.

Hubert Opperman rode a bicycle from the age of eight, when he was a Post Office messenger, until his 90th birthday when his wife Mavys, fearing for his health and safety, forced him to stop. His Malvern Star bicycle was donated to the museum in Rochester, Victoria. At 91 he died of a heart attack on his exercise bike in his home in Wantirna, City of Knox in Melbourne.

His stamina and endurance in cycling earned Opperman the status of one of the greatest Australian sportsmen.

Cycling career

Opperman was born in Rochester, Victoria in 1904. One of his first jobs was delivering Post Office telegrams by bicycle.

He came third in a cycling race at 17 in 1921. The prize was a racing bike by Malvern Star Cycles, a cycle shop in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern. The proprietor, Bruce Small, was so impressed he offered Opperman a role in the business, which helped turn both into household names in Australia.

In 1924 at 20 Opperman won the Australian road titles, as well as in 1926, 1927, and 1929.

In 1928 he won the Bol d'Or 24-hour classic at a 500m velodrome in Paris. Both his bikes had been sabotaged by the chains being filed so they failed. His manager had to find a replacement, his interpreter's bicycle which had heavy mudguards and wheels and upturned handlebars. Opperman rode the bike for 17 hours without dismounting. He won by 30 minutes to the cheers of 50,000 yelling "allez Oppy". Seeing he was likely to beat the 1000km record, his trainer asked him to go on. Opperman declined but his trainer and the crowd persuaded him to go on. He cycled 1h 19mn more alone to beat the record. He received a hero's welcome when he returned to Melbourne.

He was voted Europe's most popular sportsman of 1928 by 500,000 readers of the French sporting journal L'Auto, ahead of national tennis champion Henri Cochet.

He won the "Blue Riband" for fastest time three times in the Warrnambool to Melbourne Classic. In the Goulburn to Sydney Classic he twice won from scratch, three times being the fastest rider.

In 1931 Opperman he won the 1931 Paris-Brest-Paris (726 miles, 1166 kilometres) in a record 49 hours 23 minutes.

He captained Australian teams in the Tour de France in 1928 and 1931.

In 1940 Opperman set 100 distance records in a 24-hour race at Sydney. Many were not broken until decades later.

His career came to an end with World War II when he joined the Royal Australian Air Force and rose to flight lieutenant.

Opperman was patron of both Audax Australia and Audax UK until his death in 1996 [ [http://www.audax.org.au/about.htm About Audax Australia] ] .

Political career

After the war Opperman joined the Liberal Party of Australia and in 1949 was elected to the Parliament of Australia for the Victorian electorate of Corio centred on Geelong. He served in parliament for 17 years.

He became the Government whip in 1955. He was appointed Minister for Shipping and Transport, a Cabinet position, in 1960. Between December 1963 and December 1966 he was Minister for Immigration (retaining the position when Harold Holt succeeded Sir Robert Menzies as Prime Minister). He oversaw a relaxation of conditions for entry into Australia of people of mixed descent and a widening of eligibility for well-qualified people After retirement from politics in 1967 he was appointed Australia's first High Commissioner to Malta, where he remained 5 years.

Honours and memorials

Opperman was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1953, and made a knight bachelor in 1968.

In 1991 he attended the centenary celebrations of Paris-Brest-Paris and received the Gold Medal of the City of Paris.

Sir Hubert Opperman’s legacy is commemorated every year with the Opperman All Day Trial, an Audax (cycling) ride held in early November in which teams of three or more ride a minimum of 360km in 24 hours.

The City of Knox, where Opperman spent his last years, dedicated and named several trails and cycleways around the municipality after races which Opperman won. It has also dedicated an annual bicycle event, ‘The Oppy Family Fun Ride’. The ride is part of the Knox Festival held each March.

Hubert Opperman was entered into the Golden Book of Cycling on 13 October 1935. This recognised his record breaking exploits in Australia, and more particularly his 1934 onslaught which took 5 British records in 14 days. [http://www.rra.org.uk/gbc_oppermans.htm Road Records Association - Hubert Opperman page from The Golden Book] ] His citation reads:

"Hubert Opperman, four times professional road champion of Australia, created history in 1934 when he traveled to this country with the set purpose of attacking English national road records."

"Within fourteen days he had broken five R.R.A. records in two great rides."

"His first performance was to set up new figures of 9 hours 23 minutes for the London to York journey, continuing to do 243 miles in twelve hours. During his second ride, for the first time in the history of the sport, he broke the three longest records on the books of the Association. He set up a new 24 hour mileage of the 431.5; he did the 866 mile journey from Land's End to John o'Groats in 2 days 9 hours 1 minute and went on to cover the 1,000 miles in 3 days 1 hour 52 minutes. It was an epic ride."

"Opperman came to England with a big reputation. As well as holding several long distance road and path records in Australia, he holds the world's 24 hours unofficial and unrestricted motor-pace record with 860 miles 367 yards, and the world's 1,000 miles unofficial and unrestricted motor-pace record with 28 hours 55 minutes 10 seconds. He has won several classic Continental races including the Paris-Brest-Paris and the Bol d'Or. He has been racing for fifteen years and has completed in omnium races, Six Day races and the Tour de France."

References

* "Pedals, Politics and People" (1977) Hubert Opperman

External links

* [http://www.knox.vic.gov.au/Page/page.asp?Page_Id=302&h=1 Knox City Council on Sir Hubert Operman]
* [http://canberrabicyclemuseum.com.au/MalvernStar/sir_hubert_opperman.htm Canberra Bicycle Museum on Sir Hubert Operman]


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