Roger Cull certainly didn’t expect his retirement from a career in real estate would involve breaking world records and winning world championships as a road cyclist. In fact, aside from the odd game of tennis or squash and chasing his kids around, the Australian was barely into fitness at all.
But as he was approaching 50, a friend invited him along to his Sunday cycling group. “I just took to it,” Roger wrote in an article for The Guardian. “I really enjoyed going fast.
“I went out and bought a jazzy bike, and then almost immediately I discovered there was such a thing as racing through the bush on a bike, so I went back to the bike shop and bought a mountain bike. I was rapt in doing it. I loved it.
“Within months, I started competing. In my first race, I placed second. I rang home excited and said to my son, who was about 16 at the time, ‘Eddie, it’s Dad. I’m up the Blue Mountains. I’ve just been in this race and I’ve come second!’ And he replied: ‘Dad, no one remembers second.’ So I think that scarred me. I decided then that I wasn’t going to have too many seconds.”
Roger then set about dominating his age group in Australia over the next seven years, wracking up over 100 podium finishes. As he crept toward the end of his 50s, though, he slipped down the rankings as younger competitors started coming through so he dabbled with road racing.
It took some time to adjust because road cycling requires a different set of skills, but soon enough he started improving rapidly and picking up titles. The result was two world championships in 2018 and then a world record one hour time trial in February last year. An incredible rise to the top had been completed by a man with a very modest sporting background.
“I’d spent a lot of those middle years raising three kids, working in environmental science and then in real estate,” Roger continued. “My interests were in the outdoors, it wasn’t athletic. I had little kids and I ran around with them.”
So how did he do it? Well, being able to focus solely on his sport certainly helped. “There were a few years of overlap between training, racing and working full-time. It was pretty demanding. I’d have to be up sparrow fart.
“Physiologically, I’m sort of predisposed to going well – my testosterone levels and VO2 max are both naturally very high. Combine that with a natural competitive drive, and a willingness to get out and train hard on my own, and I suppose that’s why I’ve managed to be so successful. It does amaze me, though. I didn’t see it coming. I don’t recall ever thinking ‘What sport will I do in retirement?’
“I’m now 67. It’s not that long ago that that was the life expectancy of Australian males. Everybody should have a form of strong aerobic exercise, particularly when you’re trying to prolong the tail end of life. But it’s not going to work unless you love doing it.”