Gem of an idea sets Robert off on a lifetime journey

By Tan Parsons CYLING 60 miles is an impressive feat at any age, but for one 85-year-old from Hampstead it is all in a day s exercise. Robert Holt, who lives in Platt s Lane, was the oldest cyclist to ride from Hampton Court to Hove. Taking a mere six-and

By Tan Parsons

CYLING 60 miles is an impressive feat at any age, but for one 85-year-old from Hampstead it is all in a day's exercise.

Robert Holt, who lives in Platt's Lane, was the oldest cyclist to ride from Hampton Court to Hove.

Taking a mere six-and-a-half hours, it is the third time he has finished the Capital to Coast bike ride and he is faster now than the last time he took part.


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"I was brought up in the mountains in Austria and I think that gave me a good start in life. I've always been quite active and I train quite hard for these events. I go to the gym regularly - it's important to be fit," he said.

Mr Holt completed the ride to raise money for Norwood, a charity dedicated to supporting children and families with learning disabilities and social difficulties.

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"It's for a very good cause and I'm happy to do it," he said. "I'm not a fabulous cyclist, but I was pretty happy with my time. I try to ride pretty often. It keeps me going, physically at least."

Not only is the octogenarian still cycling, he is also still working and very much enjoying his career as a gemstone cutter.

"When I came to this country in 1939, it's a bit of a sentimental idea, but I felt that everyone has a personal journey to make. Everyone has a destiny," he said.

"When I arrived here I realised there was one thing lacking in this country and that was gemstone cutters. People would send gemstones to be cut in Germany but there was no-one to do the job here."

Mr Acker learned the trade, studied geology and set up a business in this country, achieving the status of master cutter in the process. Since then he has trained some 500 people in the skill of gem cutting. But he says he comes from a humble background and will never forget the value of hard work.

It is by cycling to his office in the City that he manages to stay so fit. Although he picked up cycling relatively late in life, he believes it's never too late for someone to start.

His latest ride, while tough enough, was easier than the one he did in India 18 months ago when he rode 500km in five days. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was the oldest rider in that event too.

"That was hard with the heat and bugs and so on. I'm not so keen to do that one again in a hurry," he said.

"I did it with my mind rather than my legs. I have all these little medals and things to show for it. We are not the masters of our own destiny, but I try to look after myself and eat the right things."

To make a donation to Norwood, call 020-8420 6944.

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk

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