THE year Kevin Simms was born William T Cosgrove was the President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, Kerry beat Mayo in the All Ireland Football Championship final at Croke Park and French man Andre Leducq won the Tour De France.
It was 1932, making Kevin, a native of Kilcock, 80 this year. He’s no ordinary 80-year-old though.
He has the energy and get-up-and-go of a man half his age, the mind too and instead of slowing down Kevin is thinking ahead and making plans.
He recently returned from the World Masters Cycling Championships in Austria and indeed returned with two trophies and he is already looking forward to next year’s event.
The World Masters Cycling Championships are held in Tirol in St Johann, Austria on an annual basis and the championship attracts more than 3,500 participants from over 52 nations, making it the world’s biggest cycling event.
In 2008 Kevin attended his first ever World Masters Cycling Championships and he has been hooked ever since.
“I went to my first World Masters Championship in 2008 and I said I would like to go back when I was 80 because I really enjoyed it.
“I couldn’t believe the standards at it. There was a guy riding from Donegal and he rode the 20 kilometre in 28 minutes and he was only 13th. This guy is in his late 50s and he also rode in the 50 mile time trial and did it in under two hours but he said the guys that he was riding against would be better than young lads riding here. That’s how fast they were.
“There’s a great atmosphere too and please God I am going to go back next year if I am still alive!” the amiable Kevin told the Leinster Leader this week.
“At just after three quarters of a mile you hit this hill and I thought I was going to blow a gasket! I did ride better this year than the last time though.
“I rode faster in the time trial. I rode a race on the Monday and on the Wednesday I rode the time trial and then another on Thursday so I did three races in four days. I’m fairly fit but I must admit that I’m a bit tired now,” he added.
Kevin first took up cycling back in 1951 but always had a passion for it. He made his first bike himself from scrap at the tender age of ten and much later joined the Naas Cycling Club.
“In 1949 I bought a bike and I used to cycle to Naas but I was still smoking. Later on I bought a racing bike and I stopped smoking immediately. I went out on the bike every day, I used to cycle to the bike shop in Naas and I even joined the Naas club. Then I started racing and had a great time. I didn’t take it that seriously but I enjoyed it. I used to cycle with Sean and Con Hedderman, who had a big drapery shop on the main street. I also used to cycle with Jimmy Kavanagh, the McGarr brothers and Joe Corcoran, who were all in the Naas club. I was with Naas for a two years before I went to Dublin. I rode the RAS Tailteann but I kind of gave it up then and bought a car,” he explained.
Kevin married Dublin native Kathleen Noonan in 1960 and moved to the capital, where he was a baker by trade. Cycling took a back seat but not one to be idle, he took up another sport.
“I actually gave up cycling when I went to Dublin because I was a baker by trade and working long hours. I went to the gym for 20 years after that and was weight training,” explained Kevin.
He did however, make a return to the bike and the sport he loves so much.
“I took up racing again when I was 48, in 1980 and I started getting back trouble. When I was x-rayed the doctor couldn’t see anything wrong with my back but he did notice that my vertebrae were very close together. And when I told him I was an old time weight lifter he knew exactly what the problem was and gave me stretching exercising. I haven’t got a great back and I don’t like standing for long. Cycling doesn’t do anything to your back and that’s why it’s a sport you can do in to your old age,” admitted the Kilcock native.
Kevin, who has a twin sister living in Australia, hasn’t looked back since jumping on the saddle again. He has cycled the Col du Galibier, a mountain pass in the southern region of the French Alps, which is often the highest point of the Tour de France, while he also goes on an annual cycling holiday to Spain.
“We go to Spain every year to the Coll de Rates and have done for the last 20 years. There was a clock there this year and you can time yourself and I went up it in 33 minutes.
“I have gone up it in 30 minutes but this time I rode 56 miles the day before and my legs were tired. If I’m averaging eight or nine miles per hour I know I’m grand but I was only doing six or seven,” he explained.
Cycling is just one of Kevin’s passions. His other is painting.
He is a member of the prestigious Water Colour Society of Ireland and some of his works are currently being exhibited at the society’s 158th exhibition at Dun Laoghaire’s County Hall, which runs until October 6.
Kevin, who was friends with renowned artists George Campbell and Arthur Armstrong, is best known for painting scenes of old Dublin buildings.
“When I was about 34 I started painting. I went for a few lessons but I had an advantage, I went out to paint and I painted what I saw on front of me. I didn’t copy from anyone. I started painting all the canal scenes in Ardclough first,” he remembers.
Mr Simms recently received the Age Action Special Guest Spirit of Bluebird Care Award at a reception in Navan. Age Action is a charity that promotes positive aging and Kevin Simms is one hell of an advertisement for positive aging.
- Ruth O’Brien