NEWCASTLE cycling lost a true champion on Thursday with the passing of Bob Ryan.
Ryan, 73, died in hospital after a long battle with heart disease.
Born in Newcastle, Ryan worked most of his life driving taxis. He owned and operated a hire car in Raymond Terrace after moving there about 15 years ago.
He had also worked as a painter and docker at the State Dockyard.
Ryan was an accomplished junior rugby league player and cricketer before turning to cycling.
He raced for one week with the Newcastle Police Boys Amateur Cycling Club in 1953 before turning professional the next week with the Newcastle League of Wheelmen.
Ryan was a late bloomer as a cyclist. He was no great shakes early, but his career soon blossomed.
Ryan was placed a couple of times before winning the first of his seven Australian professional championships when he claimed the sprint title at Townvsille in 1967.
His national titles included the sprint five times as well as both the one-mile and 10-mile championship once each. He also won numerous state titles.
His grandson, Matthew, represented NSW in the Australian junior track championships last year riding the same bike his grandfather rode in his Australian titles successes.
Ryan also rode six-day races both overseas, where he mainly teamed with fellow Novocastrian Ron Baensch, and in Australia, where he was placed three times with close friend Ian Chapman.
He also raced and beat some of the fastest European sprint champions of his era including Antonio Maspes, Sergio Bianchetto, Vanni Pettenella, Giordano Turrini and Ezio Cardi. Ryan turned to promoting with bookmaker and Hamilton publican Bob Blair in the 1970s after a broken ankle sustained in a training accident virtually ended his career.
Together they staged the Australian professional track championship at the Newcastle Velodrome as well as two six-day races and a series of carnival.
Chapman first met Ryan when they played under-16 rugby league with Central Newcastle and was one of the last people to see him before he died.
‘‘Bobby was a very talented cyclist, a great friend and in general a good bloke to everyone,’’ Chapman said.
‘‘While he was considered by many only a track rider, he was also a very underestimated road racing cyclist.
‘‘He raced in Herald Sun Tours, winning various stages, and won a Tour of the Hunter at a young age, but he was never really given the credit he deserved for his ability on the road.’’
Bob is survived by wife Del, daughters Donna and Marina, son David and their families and great grandchildren.
His funeral will be held at St Laurence O’Toole Catholic Church, Broadmeadow, on Wednesday at 11am and then proceeding to the Sandgate Cemetery.