Ararat cycling can count on Ron

ARARAT - Ron Howlett, a founding member of the Ararat and District Cycling Club who has been active in the sport for more than 40 years, is looking forward to tomorrow's Ararat Classic Cycling Carnival as much as the first time he attended the event.

Ron will take his usual position in the middle of the David Blackie Velodrome to man the lap counter a volunteer job he first took up back in the late 1960s.

Ron said he is not sure if the 2014 carnival will be the final time he turns the dials, but counts himself lucky he has been able to be involved in the sport for so long.

"I've been involved with the club since the day it was formed," he said.

"They wanted somebody to (record the laps) and I said I would, so that's the way it has stayed for quite a number of years now.

"If they are desperate for somebody to do it next year I will put my hand up, but if someone else comes along and says they want to, I won't stand in their way.

"I am not very physically fit, so I can't jump up and run around or anything like that, but I have enjoyed my time doing that job I can sit back and relax while I am doing it."

Ron, who will turn 91 years old on March 1, said the hard work of the Ararat and District Cycling Club members during the 1970s to raise enough money to build the velodrome was one the highlights of his time in the sport.

"We built the velodrome with working bees," he said.

"That was the greatest achievement I think, it is worth a lot of money down there now. There's not many of them around country Victoria."

Over the decades the Ararat and District Cycling Club has produce plenty of champions and Ron has been around to witness them all.

The club stalwart said there have been plenty of top cyclists from winners on the state, national and international stage, to Olympic and Commonwealth medallists and even members of his own family.

"Brian (son) was a good rider in his day, a very good sprinter. As a junior, he and Gary Hull rode in Victoria and Tasmania, sometimes 20 metres behind scratch they were going that well," he said.

"There was one chap who lived in Horsham, Greg Minnie, he would come down to every event we had and he was the Australian Junior Champion when he first joined our club.

"Shane Kelly and Ashley Sheard were very good bike riders of course and now the two Hull boys (Caiden and Evan) are doing very well, so are the two Hamiltons (Thomas and Lucas).

"We've also had a lot of good girls go through. My granddaughter Kylie in particular was a very good bike rider, she represented the state in Australian championships and things like that.

"I have probably forgotten one or two as well."

While Ararat has always had a good reputation for developing juniors and guiding them through the cycling ranks, Ron said there is some concern in the drop in participation.

He said that problem is not confined to just the local club, but that there has been a decline in numbers across the state.

"Numbers weren't a problem when the club was established," he said.

"When we started there were 14 boys from the Tech School who decided they wanted to ride push bikes and my step-son Les Connarty came to me and said they wanted to form a club and would I come along to a meeting at the Church of England hall.

"We immediately had 30 riders from Ararat and Stawell and I would say when we started that is the strongest it has ever been."

Each year Ron looks forward to attending the Ararat Classic Cycling Carnival.

He said the action on the track is always entertaining and this weekend would be no different.

"It is quite a spectacular bike riding event, especially when you have got good fields," he said.

"It is non-stop, it just keeps rolling on...and we get quite a lot of the real good riders come over.

"We've always got a good lot of kids coming through too and they never hold back, they are always flat out."

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