Wednesday, October 27, 2021
HomeInterviewsVern Hanaray - ANC's Kiwi Mechanic Rode and Won Too

Vern Hanaray – ANC’s Kiwi Mechanic Rode and Won Too


The ANC saga continues, albeit Mr. Vern Hanaray maintains that he wasn’t really the mechanic with the team, he ‘just washed the bikes then passed them to a real mechanic.’

But before he donned his Wellington boots and picked up a sponge he wasn’t at all bad on a bike himself; three times champion of New Zealand, a winner of major events in the UK and in Netherlands and Belgium in the era of the likes of Fons De Wolf and Frankie Hoste.

Vern Hanaray winning in Belgium in 1976. Photo©supplied

Three times Road Race Champion of New Zealand, Vern – which one gave you most satisfaction?

“The first one, I knew I was riding well but there were bigger names than me in the race and guys from the east coast of the North Island weren’t meant to win big races, it wasn’t a cycling ‘hotbed.’”

Vern Hanaray
Vern Hanaray winning the GP Pernod in England in 1974. Photo©supplied

You won the Dulux Tour too, that was the biggest stage race in the country, did that get you much Media attention?

“Yeah, I made the front cover of Sports Illustrated magazine with that one, I’d scraped third the year before.

“Tino Tabak had been National Champion and won the Dulux in the years before I did, he was the man that really set New Zealand cycling aflame.”

[Tabak had emigrated to New Zealand from the Netherlands with his parents as a young boy, he dominated New Zealand cycling before returning to the Netherlands where his strong performances gained him a professional contract with Flandria, he went on to ride the Tour de France where he finished in the top 20 and won the Dutch Professional Road Race Championship, ed.] 

Vern Hanaray (white jersey) next to Poland’s Ryszard Szurkowski. Photo©supplied

You were fourth in your ‘home’ Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, it must have been a disappointment to miss a medal?

“Yeah, Clyde Sefton of Aussie and ‘Griffo’ [Phil Griffiths of England, ed.] were up the road and then Remo Sansonetti, another Aussie pipped me for bronze – I knew the Aussies but at that time had never heard of ‘Griffo.’”

You won the Archer Grand Prix, were second in the Manx International and fourth in the Tour of the Cotswolds all top British races, how did you end up in England?

“At Christchurch I was out for a ride and bumped into Griffo, he invited me to come to England so I took him up on the offer, it was my route into European racing. 

“It was difficult at first in the English races because obviously I had no local knowledge.”

Vern Hanaray
Vern Hanaray behind Joe Waugh and in front of Bill Nickson. Photo©supplied

How did the UK races compare to the New Zealand scene?

“They were a lot more competitive, there were some strong guys, I remember chasing a break with Ian Hallam (1970 Worlds individual pursuit silver medallist and double Olympic team pursuit bronze medallist, ed), we were sitting at 30 mph – I said to him at the finish; ‘you were ripping my legs off!

“He replied; ‘you were doing the same to me!

“The thing that puzzled me though was that it was so easy to get to the continent to race but few of the English guys wanted to?”

Vern Hanaray
Start of a stage in the 1976 Milk Race. Photo©supplied

You rode well in the ’76 Tour of Britain, Milk Race.

“The first week of that race I was just getting into my stride albeit I was in a break on Stage One which got caught late in the day.

“I had good form at that start of that year, I’d stayed in Belgium over the winter and had been riding cyclo-crosses so I was well prepared.

“The final week of that Milk Race they had the ‘Blackpool Centenary’ award which was for the best rider overall in the last week over all the different classifications – GC, points and mountains – I won it, beating Jan Brezny of Poland.”

Vern Hanaray

Tell us about your time in Belgium?

“I was there ’75, ’76 but was back in New Zealand for 1977.

“The thing was that there were hundreds of good guys in Belgium, some of them winning 50 or 60 kermises each year, they were making so much money they couldn’t afford to turn pro.

“I was really lucky with my accommodation, some guys stayed in pretty dodgy places but I lived on a barge in the centre of Ghent.

“You joined a club and they gave you a couple of jerseys to race in.

“At the start of ’76 I was going really well and won half-a-dozen races, I was there to prepare for the Olympics – which were a bid deal to a Kiwi, unfortunately I crashed out – but when I got back to Belgium after the Games I didn’t win another race.

“I was racing against guys like Fons De Wolf, Frank Hoste, Claude Criquielion and Rudy Pevenage who all had big supporters clubs.

“The good thing was that if you got in the break with one of those guys then they’d pay you off for the win. 

“I also had some nice results in The Netherlands, taking a stage in a six day race there.”


Did you ever think about turning pro?

“If I’d come back to Europe for ’77 I would have, I should have come back for that season, that’s a regret.

“And that winter when I was riding the cyclo-crosses, Danny Clark approached me and asked if I’d ride the Six Days with him but I didn’t fancy it.” 

Vern Hanaray
Vern Hanaray (l) and England’s Joe Waugh in the 1976 Milk Race. Photo©supplied

You won a Milk Race stage in 1980.

“I’d got my form back and that was a bit of a ‘last hurrah,’ I was the only English speaker to win a stage in that race” 

[The USSR won overall with Ivan Mitchtenko from team mates Galialetdinov and Sukhoroutchenkov, the Soviets took seven stages, the Poles two plus the prologue, Czechoslovakia one, Sweden one plus Vern’s win on Stage Eight, ed.

Vern Hanaray
Vern Hanaray in the 1976 Milk Race stage into Blackpool. Photo©supplied

A Kiwi North Staffs Division Champion in 1981?

“I was registered with a local club so there was no problem but I had a gastric hernia that year and couldn’t keep food down – initially I didn’t know what was wrong.”

Vern Hanaray
Vern Hanaray in the 1976 Milk Race. Photo©supplied

And you stayed in England becoming a mechanic with ANC?

“I was part of Griffo’s social circle and he asked me if I would drive the ANC team car at races; and I’d help out with the bikes.

“I would clean the bikes then pass them to a real mechanic to get checked over.” 

Wasn’t there a problem with you having a New Zealand passport when you were driving into France?

“Yeah, the French intelligence service had sunk the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour because she’d been making a nuisance of herself at French nuclear weapons tests at Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific.

“The French divers who did the deed had been imprisoned in New Zealand and relations between the two countries weren’t the best, Kiwis weren’t welcome in France back then.

“We were at border crossing into France and they started checking passports so Griffo went up and got a passport from one of the riders who was already through – Graham Jones, I think – and gave it to me.

“Then there was the time Malcolm Elliott had pulled out of a race and wanted to get home, he offered me a substantial number of francs if I could get him on that day’s ferry and not have to wait another day.

“We just made it and the guy at the ferry port customs post said to me; ‘perhaps a little slower next time, Monsieur?’”

Vern Hanaray
Mixing with the Russian Alexander Averin and Ireland’s Billy Kerr in the 1980 Milk Race. Photo©supplied

Which rides in your career gave you most satisfaction? 

“Winning that Dulux Tour in ‘71 was amazing, a real breakthrough against top home and Australian opposition.

“In ’75 I won Stage Three in the Internationale Wielerarond Zesdaagse in the Netherlands. 

“That was a nice win because the big hitting West German team pursuiters were there; Gregor Braun who was Olympic Individual and Team Pursuit Champion the next year in Montreal was seventh and his team mate Hans Lutz who was World Pursuit Champion and ’74 and in the ’76 Olympic team with Braun finished in 11th place.

“In ’76 there was the Tweedaagse te Kemmel (Two Days of Kemmel) over three stages where you could ride any stage as an individual event but there was an overall GC if you rode all three.

“I won the first stage which went up the Kemmelberg eight times; I was second in the Stage Two time trial to Pierre Leurquin who only rode that stage, then in the afternoon Stage Three I was seventh to Johny Deblaere and that gave me the overall win.

“Those were probably the most memorable ones.”

Vern Hanaray
Vern Hanaray, here at Daytona, is into cars these days. Photo©supplied

And you’re into cars now?

“It’s that bike rider thing – ‘speed attracts!’

“There was a bad winter about 10 years ago, I said to my son that I had to get away from it.

“I met a guy from Florida and I have a place there now where I spend the winter.”

Vern’s place in Florida is in Daytona, where else? With thanks to him for his time and sharing his memories and photos.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Luke Davison – Glasgow Gold and a Stagiaire’s ride with ‘super squadra’ BMC!

It was last year when our man Dave Chapman first spotted Aussie Luke Davison doing the biz in the Flanders kermises; but it was 2007 when he first came to Aussie national prominence as part of the winning squad in the National Team Sprint Championships. Rolling the momentum into 2014 he’s taken Australian, World - and now Commonwealth team pursuit titles. And that’s not to mention fitting in a win in the 200 K UCI 1.2 Omloop der Kempen in The Netherlands in his Synergy Baku colours.

Commonwealth Games 2014 – Track, Day One

It's the first day of competition in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the chat in the riders' enclosure before the start of the first track cycling session was that Australia and New Zealand had brought a team at the top of their game - and it didn't take long to become apparent this was true. Australia dominated the first day in a packed Sir Chris Hoy velodrome in Glasgow, taking six medals back to the athletes' village just down the road; two golds, a silver and three bronzes.

Alistair Speed Memorial 50 Mile Time Trial 2014

It was 11:20 am on Thursday September 5th 2013 on the A91 road between Gateside and Strathmiglo when we lost Ali Speed. He was just 49 years-old, out on his bike and doing what he loved when he was snatched away. Ali rode his first race at just 12 years-old and was racing just days before he died. VeloVeritas ran an obituary for Ali at the time of his death and it goes without saying that we had to attend the 50 mile time trial his sister Mhairi organised in his honour on behalf of Fife Cycling Association. We thought that rather than straight race reportage – albeit not ignoring Iain Grant’s (Dooleys) dazzling 1:47 to win – we’d drive most of the course and look at the roads and places Ali trained and raced on.

The VeloVeritas Years – 2009: My Boys Mørkøv and Rasmussen Win the Copenhagen Six Day

You know when you're getting old when 'young guys' you were with on their first race come round to retiring. At the Copenhagen Six Day 2009 we saw Danes Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv take their home Six for the first time. I was lucky enough to be working for them as their 'runner'... Let's look back to 2009 and some great memories.

Erick Rowsell – “I do like to race a lot”

It’s been a while since we last spoke to young English rider Erick Rowsell (and yes, that’s his sister) - it was at the time when he was one of eight Endura riders (and just five Britons) to survive the inevitable cull which occurred when the team merged with German Pro Continental squad, Netapp for season 2013.

Justice for Gary Wiggins

It’ll be nine years, this January since we ran our Gary Wiggins obituary. Wiggins, father of Knight of the Realm, current World Hour Record holder, reigning Olympic Team Pursuit Champion and former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, died in hospital in Newcastle, New South Wales the day after an ‘incident’ in Muswellbrook the previous day.

At Random

Bob Jungels Solos Victorious in Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2019

Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne UCI 1.1 HC is the bridesmaid to Het Nieuwsblad’s UCI WT bride but it’s a race with a long history dating back to 1946 and has some interesting winners including Roger De Vlaeminck, Patrick Sercu, Johan Museeuw, George Hincapie, Cav – and a certain Patrick Lefevere in 1978.

Your Comments about Mrs Deene, George, and their cyclists’ Guesthouse

The piece we ran recently by reader John Day about staying with Mrs Deene in Belgium aroused a lot of interest on social media but it was spread over a number of different pages and apps. We thought it would be a shame to let some fascinating and funny comments go to waste so we pulled a selection together for you.

Andreas Kappes

It’s with much sadness that we report the death of former Six Day and road star, Germany’s Andreas Kappes at just 52 years of age. He was stung by a bee whilst on cycling team management duties and died from ‘allergic shock’ on 31st July. Kappes was one of the all-time great Six Day men, rated 18th in the last edition of the Six Day results ‘bible’ – ‘Statistieken.’

Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007 – Day 1

Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007. Kris picked me up at Dusseldorf Weeze airport at tea time yesterday (Wednesday), it's actually only about two kilometres from Holland so it wasn't long before we found a frites stand. Hasselt is in the Limburg region of Belgium, Flemish speaking and with a population of about 70,000. The local tourist office brochure tries hard to talk the town up but there's not much to say - a nice-enough place though.

Living in the Heart of Flanders!

The things that can happen in the space of a week when you're living in the heart of Flanders. As mentioned in the last blog post I happened to meet Kurt Asle Arvesen on a ride and had a nice spin and chat with him. A couple of days later I was in the Asfra bike shop when fellow Norwegian and Team Sky rider Edvald Boasson Hagen walked in on his way out training.

Commonwealth Games 2014 – Time Trial, Elite Men. Dowsett Movistars on Glasgow Green

Essex boy Alex Dowsett proved that there is life after Sky with a brilliant time trial win in the Commonwealth Games event to add to his 2013 TT stage in the Giro, beating Aussie race favourite Rohan Denis into second and Wales Sky flyer Geraint Thomas into third on a blustery sunny Thursday afternoon around ‘The Dear Green Place’ that is Glasgow.