By Phill Bates
John Hardaker, one of the favourite sons of St George Cycling Club, the Sydney-based club that has produced countless champion cyclists, has passed away in his sleep while in Vietnam on holidays. The body of the 68 year-old is on his return to Australia.
Known to many people as 'Softie', Hardaker was a dominant force as a cyclist during the sixties and helped pilot St George to ten New South Wales teams pursuit titles and four road premierships, the last in 1973 when he was captain and coach of the team.
Hardaker was a great all-round cyclist, capable of winning road or track and was part of the successful NSW team that won the coveted Southcott Cup National title in the teams pursuit in 1962. Hardaker also picked up a bagful of silver medals at national titles and in the tandem won three silvers with different partners, including Olympic Champion Lionel Cox, Alan Dutton and Malcolm McCredie.
One of the great facets of his cycling career was Hardaker's ability to read the race; he was one of the best tacticians in cycling in NSW and one of the unluckiest riders not to make the Australian team in 1962 and 1964 considered by many as an outstanding teams pursuit rider.
As a NSW madison cyclist in the sixties and early seventies he was without peer.
Hardaker's career spanned 15 years racing with and against some great champions of the late fifties and early sixties and then teaming with the likes of Gary Sutton to win titles as late as 1973.
Hardaker during his own career was a guiding light for St George cyclists taking over the reigns from National Coach Joe Buckley and going on to coach the Australian team at the Moscow Olympics. Even before he took the reigns as the St George coach he was assisting young riders claim medals at National titles.
Hardaker coached many cyclists to national and international prominence and Graham Seers, not unlike 'Softie' in racing style or ability, went on to represent at the Moscow Olympics and was grateful to the time and effort that Hardaker devoted to his career. They remained great friends for decades as did most people that had the pleasure of meeting John Hardaker.
Hardaker, during the past 12 years, had been assisting the UCI to develop cycling in third world countries requiring the need for coaching development and had been extremely successful.
Hardaker was awarded life membership with St George Cycle Club in 1974.