Do you recognize this man?
Well, if you are from Sweden you may. But if you are like me, you will have never heard the name, Gustaf Hakanson. On a recent rest day on the North American Epic, while having a cup of coffee, my partner Ruth, came to me with a childrens book she had picked up recently. Titled “Supergrandpa”, the cover featured a painted picture of an old bearded man on a bicycle.
Skimming through it, I discovered that in 1951 Gustaf, 66 years old and an avid cyclist, wanted to enter a stage race but due to his age and his looks the organizers did not allow him to do so. So he put on a shirt with number zero on it, then apparently started one minute after the race began and cycled night and day while the rest of the riders slept. He arrived at the finish one day before the rest of the participants and become a national celebrity.
Gustaf was an extraordinary man, who not only participated in races, but like our Tour d’Afrique cross continent participants, he undertook long bicycle journeys for the sheer pleasure of them. In 1959, at the tender age of 74, he cycled from Sweden to Jerusalem. Gustaf died when he was 102 years old. I guess one could say his was a life well lived.
But the reason I write about Gustaf is not just because at the age of 66, he showed younger men and women how tough and capable he was, but because over the years – though none of them have yet become celebrities – we have had a whole group of Supergrandpas as well as Supergrandmas on our various tours. To me it has been an honour to watch, to cycle with, to spend time with these riders. In fact, many of the grandpas and grandmas – individuals such as George, Monique, Rob, JJ, Ruut, Rudolf, Paul, and many, many others – who I am sure would no doubt give Gustaf a run for his money or at least put a smile on his face. More importantly they are a great example for all of us.
So here is to you, Supergrandpas and Supergrandmas.