Cantabrian keeps his passion for the pedals

Kevin Searle found cycling at just the right time.

The chairman of Cycling New Zealand Schools Canterbury helped introduce track cycling to Villa Maria College, when his daughter, Helen, took up the sport two decades ago.

Since then he has been involved at a provincial and national level and had planned to step back until the coronavirus pandemic.

He said he felt it was the right thing to do when he got involved in the beginning and it all blossomed from there.

”Being the kind of parent I am, I was always happy to help out," he said.

"In 1994 I had a serious brain injury that cost me my career as a lawyer.

”I had time on my hands and it came to a point that I needed something to fill my time in so cycling at Villa was that,” he said.

”I got together with the head of sport, Mandy Holdstock, and said we could really do something with cycling at the school.”

Kevin Searle has been committed to secondary school cycling in both Canterbury and New Zealand...
Kevin Searle has been committed to secondary school cycling in both Canterbury and New Zealand for the past 20 years. Photo: Supplied
Searle said he enjoyed being the new kids on the block at national events.

”The power to weight ratio for girls is ideal for cycling and the food is important, too.

”We started taking the girls to the national (track) championships and we had no idea how intensive it was.

”That first year we had a school ride shirt but some of the big Auckland schools had marquees and massage tables and matching bikes and the girls were defeated from the moment they arrived.”

In an effort to redress the balance, Searle ensured the team looked the part.

”I got them all skin suits ... because none of the other schools were using them.

”What I didn't know was that there was an unwritten rule with some of the schools not to use them so that shook things up.

”We’d save the suits and helmets for the special events and tell the girls they'd ride 3-4km/h quicker, which was complete placebo effect but it worked.

"The girls went from 20th to fourth in the national team time trial that year.”

Searle coached at Villa until 2015 and is the patron of the cycling team.

A rift between Schools Cycling NZ and Bike NZ saw Searle facilitate meetings between the organisations.

”Process and administration comes naturally to me so I got stuck in and laid out a 10-year plan for cycling in schools.”

Searle said road, track and mountain biking now all worked well together.

”Mountain biking had fallen away but over the years it been a complete winner and that will keep growing.”

Searle retired last July after 10 years at the helm of Cycling New Zealand Schools and had planned to step back from his Canterbury role as well late last year.

However, he is now determined to see the organisation through the coronavirus outbreak and has committed for another 12 months.

”i believe you should always have new people coming through and I've been happy to give 10 years.”

He said he loved seeing kids achieve their goals.

”It’s a privilege watching young athletes develop,” he said.

”The one thing I say at the end of every year is that not all will be champions, but if I've helped them be a better person by the time they have left school, then that's success in my view as a coach and administrator.”

Searle said he was still trying to go out for bike rides but he was keeping an eye on how his organisation could bounce back after coronavirus.

”It is time to step down but I'll still be involved, just more in the background,” he said.