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The Gisborne Photo News



Alf Baker

Sportsman Of The Month

Twenty-four-year-old Wairoa cyclist Alf Baker burst into the sporting headlines last month when he won the gruelling 512 mile international tour of Tasmania by a record margin of 14min 46sec. In doing so he gave New Zealand its first victory in this race for 12 years.

For a small-town rider, virtually unknown among the big names of New Zealand cycling who technically should never have made the trip to Tasmania because officials mistakenly placed him fourth in the selection race, Baker made a devastating impact on a field of top internationals.

It was perhaps these reasons that assisted Alf to his great victory, for as a rank outsider he was probably underestimated by the other competitors, busy paying close attention to his better-known fellow countrymen.

Despite this the New Zealanders dominated the four-day event, taking six of the first ten places.


Back home with his family, his father, daughter, and wife, Jill.


On his return to Wairoa Alf was given a Mayoral reception, and then it was back to work in the machine shop of the Wairoa Freezing Works.


Coming from a cycling-minded family (his father is president of the Wairoa Club, his brother Bob has raced for many seasons, and an uncle and cousin both ride), Alf was given an old bike by his uncle to "get around town on". It was a natural step that he should "have a go", and although a limit rider in his first season, he soon applied himself to the point where he won the H. B.-P. B. junior title in 1960. Since then he has won the senior championship on the five occasions that he has competed, was well placed in the 1964 Olympic trials, and more recently, was a member of the winning Gisborne team in the Hope Gibbons trophy race.

In 1965 he suffered a setback when a back injury, aggravated by continued riding, forced him into Napier Hospital, but since then has returned to complete fitness.

Among the items Alf contributes his success to are his father's willingness to transport him to races (there is no competition in Wairoa), the experience and support given him by Neil Robinson since his return to Gisborne this season, and his strength on hill climbing, no doubt gained from many miles of road work around Wairoa. His weekly training schedule is spread over six days, with an average of 300 miles.

In private life Alf is a fitter and turner with the Wairoa Freezing Works, is married with a 10-months-old daughter, and is the son of Mr Bob Baker snr, and the late Mrs Baker.


Warming up prior to a race from Gisborne.
(Wairoa pictures by Ray Puddy).