WHEN Graham Smith, 72, reached the top of the legendary Alpe d’Huez the day after the 2013 Tour de France peloton rode the same course, he broke down in tears.
For Mr Smith who took up cycling to get fit after a quintuple heart bypass in 1997 it was one of the most amazing experiences of his life.
Mr Smith’s invasive open heart surgery was carried out to treat severely blocked arteries.
While he was recovering it was his son Glenn who suggested he take up bike riding to get fit.
Back in Orange after his return from Europe and the Tour de France, Mr Smith says he will carry the memories of that ride, spurred on by his son Glenn who was riding behind him, forever.
“He was behind me and he kept saying dad you can do it,” he said.
The Alpe d’Huez is considered by many cyclists to be the most famous climb in the world with 21 hairpin bends over a 15 kilometre climb.
Mr Smith said he stopped to catch his breath several times during the climb and at one stage he didn’t think he’d make it.
His son’s partner Cathy Johnson who also went with them on the ride had to return for water for Mr Smith and formed part of the encouragement needed for him to finish the ride.
“I have watched the race on television for the last few years and never would have dreamed that I would be able to do that ride myself,” Mr Smith said.
And now he has the certificate to prove it, handed to riders like Mr Smith by the French tourism authority.
Now he is back in Orange after his amazing achievement Mr Smith doesn’t intend to slacken off.
In his 73rd year he rides around the district four to five times a week riding a staggering 60kms each time.
“The roads in Orange though are a real challenge and its hard for bike riders - there are so many potholes.
“It is in complete contrast to Canberra where I lived before moving to Orange.
“The Mayor really does have to do something about our roads,” he said.