SIR HUBERT OPPERMAN

SIR HUBERT OPPERMAN

ABOUT

Australian cycling has a rich history comprising of some of the oldest races in the world and international success dating back more than 100 years. 

The Cycling Australia Hall of Fame has been established to recognise the outstanding achievements of the true greats of Australian cycling.

They are the “best of the best” who, through their achievements, have made an enduring or significant contribution to cycling. Induction into the Cycling Australia Hall of Fame is a public acknowledgement of their extraordinary feats.

Cycling Australia Hall of Fame Committee selects riders and/or officials whose induction into the Hall of Fame takes place at the annual Cycling Australia Awards.

 

Sir Hubert Opperman

SIR HUBERT OPPERMAN

CYCLING BIO

Born 29 May 1904 
Rochester, Victoria, Australia

Died 18 April 1996 (aged 91)
Wantirna, Victoria, Australia

Few athletes, in any sport, leave a legacy that stands the test of time like Opperman. 

His greatest feats were achieved almost 90 years ago. 

In the era of Bradman and Phar Lap he captured the nations attention and remains a household name. 

Sir Hubert Opperman, affectionately known as Oppy by Australian and French crowds, earned international acclaim for his endurance feats in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Opperman rode from the age of eight, as a Post Office messenger, until his wife Mavys, fearing for his health and safety, forced him to stop riding in 1994 on his 90th birthday. 

In 1921 at the age of 17 he came third in a cycling race, the prize was a racing bike by Malvern Star Cycles, a tiny bike shop in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern. The shop owner, Bruce Small, was so impressed he gave the young Opperman a job and so began one of the most enduring partnerships in Australian sport.

At 20 years of age, in 1924, he became the Australian road cycling champion for the first time. He retained the title in 1926, 1927, and 1929 and created many world records ranging from 849 miles to 1000 miles.

In 1928 he won the prestigious Bol d'Or 24 hour classic at a velodrome in Paris. 

Prior to the race his bikes had been sabotaged, by the chains being filed down so that they soon failed. He ended up riding the bike of his interpreter with heavy mudguards and wheels and upturned handlebars. But Opperman was determined and rode the old bike for 17 hours without stopping. He won the race by 30 minutes to the cheers of 50,000 French citizens yelling "allez Oppy". 

He was voted Europe's most popular sportsman in 1928 by more than 500,000 readers of the French sporting journal L'Auto, ahead of their own national tennis champion Henri Cochet.

In the famous Warrnambool to Melbourne Classic, he won the Blue Riband for the fastest time three times. 

In 1931 Hubert Opperman became the world's greatest endurance cyclist when he won the non-stop Paris-Brest-Paris tour (726 miles/1162km) breaking all previous records over the distance in the time of 49 hours 23 minutes. 

His participation and captaincy of the Australian teams in the Tour de France in 1928 and 1931 sets an example to more recent Australian riders to follow. He finished 18th in 1928 and 12th in the 1931 edition of the Tour. 

In 1940 Opperman set more than 100 distance records in a 24 hour cycling marathon at a Sydney Velodrome. 

His cycling career came to an end with World War II when he joined the Royal Australian Air Force and rose to the level of Flight Lieutenant.

After the war Opperman joined the Liberal Party of Australia and in 1949 was elected to the Parliament of Australia for the Victorian electorate of Corio, Geelong. He served in parliament for 17 years under Prime Ministers Sir Robert Menzies and Harold Holt. After his retirement from politics in 1967 he was appointed as Australia's first High Commissioner to Malta, which he performed for five years.

Opperman became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1952 and was knighted in 1968. In 1991 he attended the centenary celebrations of the Paris-Brest-Paris race and received the Gold Medal of the City of Paris.

Sir Hubert Opperman was inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 and was elevated to "Legend of Australian Sport" in 1993.

Major Achievements

  • 1. 1st Australian Professional Road Championship 1924, 1926, 1927, 1929
  • 2. 1st Bol d’Or 24 Hour, Paris, 1928
  • 3. 1st Paris-Brest-Paris 1931
  • 4. 12th Tour de France 1931
  • 5. 18th Tour de France 1928