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Harry Watson (19041996) was the first New Zealander to ride in the Tour de France. In 1928, he teamed up with Australian cyclists, Hubert Opperman, Percy Osborne and Ernie Bainbridge. They were the first English-speaking team to ride the Tour de France.

The tour was 5377 kilometres long in 1928, most of it on unsealled roads, and the riders used heavy, fixed wheel bicycles. There were 22 stages, ranging from 119 kilometres to 387 kilometres. As the Australasians were relatively inexperienced (they had never raced in Europe before) and were a trade team of four competing against teams of 8 to 10 cyclists, the French media predicted they would only last a few stages before pulling out. Of the 168 starters that year, only 41 finished. Harry Watson placed 28th. He stated afterwards that it was the toughest race he had ever completed: "When I think of the mountain climbing, the mad rushes downhill, and the riding at night in pitch darkness, well, it is a veritable nightmare! In spite of this, it was a wonderful experience racing the Continentals."

After eight months abroad Harry Watson returned to New Zealand and continued competitive cycling to 1937. He won almost every long distance race that he entered, and set some enduring records in the process. The most notable was in 1935 when he completed the 167-kilometre Taranaki Around-the-Mountain Road Race in 4 hours, 8 minutes, 38 seconds (average speed of 40 km/h).


  • Harry Watson: the Mile Eater (New Zealand Cycling Legends 02) (2006, Kennett Bros, Wellington) ISBN 0-9582673-1-6


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