Geoffrey Heintz

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In 1935, aged 10 years of age.  Geoffrey Heintz became the youngest ever rider to ride from Sydney to Melbourne.  Completing this epic journey in 4 days 9 hours and 50 minutes.  Geoffrey had been inspired by emulating Billie Samuel’s record breaking ride which she did in 1934.

Geoffrey rode daily in and around the Strzelecki Ranges near his hometown of Korromburra in Victoria.  He had amazing strength and stamina for someone so young, and asked his parents if he could ride from Sydney to Melbourne.  He was inspired to do this ride to emulate a hero of his.  “Billie Samuel”.  Who in 1934 set the record for the fastest time by a women to ride from Sydney to Melbourne.

The Plan

The family approached an ex-professional rider; R.W “Fatty” Lamb.  Who was one of the few Australian’s at that stage to have ridden in the Tour de France.  Fatty was a mentor and coach to Geoff and put together the schedule and the plan for making this ride a successful one.  Fatty was instrumental in getting sponsorship for the ride.  He turned to Bruce Small.  The owner of Malvern Star bicycles, who’s contribution to Australian cycling at the time was immense.  Malvern Star sponsored a number of riders who went onto international fame.  Bruce Small would have been highly dubious that a 10 year old boy could make such an epic journey.  If one could he wanted to be part of it and put the money forward to make this ride possible.  Sponsoring young Geoffery Heintz.

Geoffrey Heintz
Fatty Lamb

The ride

Geoffrey Heintz set out from Sydney at 8:20 am on January 1, 1935 (New Years Day).  His parents accompanying him in a motor car.

The first leg of his journey he was accompanied by Arthur Gray.  An ex-professional cyclist who rode with him out to Goulburn.  Riding was tough with a number of dusty roads to contend with.  Geoffrey wanted to continue riding, but was told to rest.  ”Dad says I must stop here for the night. If I wasn’t so sleepy I wouldn’t be tired at all” – GH

Between Goulburn to Gundagain, Geoffrey rode on little sleep.  Copped a fair amount of rain, and did it tough.  Least of all having to ride through a swarm of grasshoppers at one point.  “The grasshoppers were thick yesterday. Some children said they do not sting but they do. They hurt when they hit you on the face when you are riding hard. One made my eye sore so I put on my goggles.  But they still stung my legs” – GH.

Geoffrey didn’t mind.  He just wanted to visit the place where the dog sat on the tucker box.

Geoffrey Heintz
Image taken by Sacha Fernandez courtesy of Flickr

The mini celebrity

Geoffrey Heintz was treated like a mini-celebrity in Albury, greeted by the deputy mayor (Alderman W Colley).  Geoffrey was rapt that a number of boys and girls came out to ride with him and presented him with a silver cup.

That is my first cup.  If I show mum and dad I can ride like I do at Korumburra they promised I could be a racer and try to win other cups”. – GH

After leaving Albury Geoffrey was overcome by a violent storm which he bravely rode through.  All of his clothes were soaked to the skin.  Nearing Seymour he was forced to pull off the road.  Shaking like a leaf, his family needed to light a fire to dry his clothes and restore some form of circulation.

“When I started I thought if a girl like Billie Samuel did not get tired, I wouldn’t.” – GH

Leaving Seymour Geoffrey set into a strong head wind.  At times he could only manage 10 km/h.  So fierce was the wind that on one occasion it blew him off his bicycle.  Taking skin off his knees and elbows.

Homecoming

Malvern Star arranged for Australia’s number#1 cyclist Hubert Opperman and Billie Samuel to ride out and meet Geoffrey.  They met him eight kilometres out of the city.  They led the boy wonder into the heart of Melbourne.

Geoffrey Heintz
Hubert Opperman and Bruce Small

Geoffrey Heintz arrived at the Elizabeth street Post Office at 6.10 pm on Saturday.  One of his knee’s stiff from the cold, and most likely hurting from his crash near Seymour.

In 1935 this was an unbelievable feat.  Geoffrey went from being a country boy, who was the son of a farmer to a hero.   Geoffrey touched the hearts of those that met him throughout his travels.  “I wonder if the people who wave to me know how far I am going. I mustn’t stop to tell everyone”. – GH

What did success taste like to Geoffrey Heintz?

I had some Ice cream and cakes and tea from a flask.  That’s why I like riding so well.  Gee, no wonder Fatty and Oppy. Like breaking records. It’s great being fed on fruit, ice cream, chocolates, and all that other boys don’t get when they’re not breaking records”. – GH

Final thoughts 

Yesterday I saw a swagman and he asked me where I thought I was going. I said to him I was riding to Melbourne. He said I was mad to think I could ride there. I told him I have more chance than he had. I bet he will still be walking when ‘Fatty’ meets me in Melbourne”. – GH

Sources

I was able to discover about this amazing ride from newspaper cuttings, and a diary.  Which thankfully Geoffrey Heintz kept to document his epic ride.  This is where I found the quotes for this piece.

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