20 February 2023

Iconic Goulburn cyclist dies in weekend collision

| John Thistleton
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Man judging green apples at a show

Con Toparis (centre) judged the produce section of the Goulburn Show each year (with volunteers Kevin Sasse and Joan Oliver in 2022). Photo: Graeme Welsh.

The tragic death on Saturday morning of Goulburn bike riding pioneer Con Toparis has shocked the cycling communities of Goulburn, Canberra and further afield.

Taking an opportunity for a ride after serving other cyclists coffee at his cafe earlier that morning, Con was travelling south on Crookwell Road, Goulburn.

Police said the 57-year-old collided with a motorbike rider and his female passenger. The rider and passenger were uninjured. Con died at the scene before the ambulance arrived.

Long-standing Goulburn Cycle Club president Adam Lambert, who last spoke to Con on Thursday night, said members had returned to the Greengrocer Cycling and Cafe after a ride on Saturday to hear of the tragedy.

“It seems almost ridiculous a motorbike rider hits a pushbike rider,” Adam said.

“Motorbike riders, like pushbike riders, are generally hypervigilant on the road because they are the softer target. Clearly, it was something horrendously unfortunate.”

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Adam had known Con for many years and said he was one of the most passionate cyclists when it came to bicycle safety.

“The irony of that just stinks. He taught bicycle safety. He was not beyond chipping anyone who did something wrong or put themselves in harm’s way.”

Fellow cyclist Chris Berry said Con had started bunch rides from the Greengrocer years ago and sponsored elite riders from Goulburn.

“If people strayed off line, he would be on to them,” Chris said.

“He was instrumental in getting people to join a club and learn how to race and how to be a better rider.”

Adam said Con was a cycling force who, about 20 years ago, put a bike shop in a cafe/greengrocer shop.

“It was quite a bold move back then,” Adam said.

“It solidified the Goulburn cycling community, in particular, and the general community into a larger one. The Greengrocer gave us a port of call, a place to meet and that developed a much deeper community that turned essentially into a family.”

He said The Greengrocer Cycling and Cafe built a national cycling profile.

“I would travel, meet a bunch of cyclists and mention I was from Goulburn, and almost always the next statement was, ‘Oh yeah, the Greengrocer Cafe’,” Adam said.

“There was a time when Con would have been one of the largest bike dealers in the country. People travelled from everywhere to buy bikes there. The fame was not due to the small numbers of Goulburn cyclists, it was the much larger cycling community. People travelled a long distance to come and buy bikes there.”

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The Lambert family almost religiously bought pizzas from the Greengrocer every Thursday night. Last Thursday, Con came over to Adam to again talk about his sons.

Con’s youngest son, 15-year-old Costa, an Australian karting champion, is overseas preparing for his full-season European racing debut.

“They have spent the last few years travelling the karting circuit. Costa is pretty much-winning anything he can put his hands to with the driving passion to get to where he is today,” Adam said.

“The love Con had for his two boys, Eli (Elias) and Costa was incomparable, in my opinion. He was a dedicated family man, and the Greengrocer changed the Goulburn cycling landscape forever.

“Con’s wife Lana is overseas with Costa,” he added.

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So devastated by the unexpected news, Adams said he has made sure he has told as many of those closest to him he loved them in the last 24 hours.

“Unfortunately, the cycling club has had its share of sudden tragedies: the loss of Neville Smith, Michael Navybox, Jarrod Coveney, now Con Toparis,” he said.

“It is sort of – if you were suspicious – you would call it a curse, but it is just life. It just shows how suddenly things can change.”

He said the club would organise a ride or event to remember Con.

“At the moment, everyone is a little bit shell-shocked.”

Original Article published by John Thistleton on About Regional.

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Truly sad news. My condolences to his friends and family at this awful time.

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