Kathy Lynch is Alive And Well
One of my favorite competitors came from New Zealand, sorry, TWO of my faves–Offrhoda Morrison, and Kathy Lynch.
Rhoda got some coverage earlier in the blog.
Down here on the South Island, I’d heard Kathy was ‘hiding out’.
No one had been able to locate her. But Roger-the-farmer down by Fox River bridge knew precisely how to find her phone number, and put us in touch.
Next day, after a good five hour, 55-km ride (seems fast to me) I was getting picked up (“the nixt butt of road isn’t particularly spishow”, she assured me) and driven down coast a day ahead of schedule.
Kathy is even more beautiful (some would say “handsome”–a grudging compliment for women like Hepburn who refuse to conform to gender type, but were knock-outs anyhow) than when I last saw her in 1992 on the World Championship podium at Bromont, Quebec.
Her seat rail broke (‘it was the Lighter Is Better period, remember?’ she shrugged) and the saddle fell off–and instead of silver she got bronze, and I got the silver. I offered her my prize purse, and still don’t remember if she accepted.
Her racing was top-level, both road and dirt. She’d been to most of the women’s classics, and always on a shoestring. From her I learned how the Kiwi bicycle federation (or whatever) cared nothing about mtn biking…even when she qualified for the Olympics she had to raise her own dough to get t o Atlanta…while the road team were flown in with a coach, staff, etc….
It gets better: the bike that Avanti (Kiwi bike importer of fine Chinese POS’s) gave her that year (1996) was found to have a hole in the bottom bracket. The Shimano tech who always looked after Kathy (like Bert Boom did for me) said that she was not gonna ride that bike in the Olympic race–she had to get a different one.
Kathy’s petite, and her 14 cm machine from home–the ol’ trusty four year old ride she’d been ‘upgraded’ from–was expedited to Georgia, arriving with about a day to spare…talk about suspense. Then the UCI decided to shorten the women’s course by a lap and a half–out of concern for the horses who shared the same competitive arena I guess. I’m a little unclear on that. But what else is new when the officials, on the morning of the event, change the length?
So much for training for particular distances, course times, etc. Kathy said that the races had become 45 minute “sprints” that year….and that the Olympic officials didn’t allow the cyclists onto the course until the day before their race (!). Kathy ignored that, and ran into the Army combing over the rocks with bomb-detection equipment.’
Needless to say she was taken into custody for flouting the No Bikes rule (gotta admire her pluck) and was contemplating what they were going to do with her as the hour she was in detention dragged on…and Chantal from Canada intervened and said that Kathy wasn’t a terrorist.
I got a double earful of tales about living very close to the bone and racing at top level…about the Coast to Coast, which she’s won something like five or six times, and about how Kiwis really do chop down the Tall Poppies, hate it when someone excels.
At the tourist info (“i-site”) I proudly pointed out my physical proximity to a Genuine Olympian, and Kath wheeled around and disappeared.
I keep forgetting. She had a whole lot more guys who treated her like shit, and her governing body let her hang out in the wind–and it’s not hard to see how even though it was the liveliest, most resourceful period of her thirties and forties, it’s not exactly a golden-tinted idyll ( girlfriend, I can relate! I know what it’s like to have the ages, categories, prizes, and even contractual details switched around to deprive you what you’re due simply because you were a superior being in an inferior milieu)
So now here we are in Rimu, the tiny town near Hokitika where she and Peter Br., her boyfriend of 35 years have a small holding. He is an electrician by trade and an engineer by training, working in Christchurch because there’s a lot of work to be had there…
She and I had the place to ourselves and talked til way after dark, then I showed her the Magellanic Clouds–a pair of nebulous puffs of star material too distant to distiguish, but as obvious to me as a pair of sheep’s wool shreds hanging up in a celestial barbed wire fence.
“You’ve enlightened me yit agin!” she declared.
And with that, I trundled off to sleep.