Back to Hall of Fame
Don Kirkham

Don Kirkham

Inducted 2024

The 1914 Tour de France was a significant step in the history of Australian cycling.

The Tour, in its 12th edition, was already cycling’s premier race worldwide and would be the last edition before the beginning of World War I.

Don Kirkham and Iddo “Snowy” Munro, along with four other Australians, travelled by ship for seven weeks, from Melbourne to Toulon, in the south of France, to race their bikes in the hope of a Tour start.

Kirkham, a strong diary farmer, and Munro, a diminutive tinsmith, emerged from the travelling group of six to become the first Australians to ride the Tour de France.

They were selected by the French Phebus-Dunlop team as domestiques to support Frenchman Georges Passerieu, who finished second in the 1906 Tour.

There were 143 starters of the race in 1914 when it departed Paris.

5,380km later, when the race returned to finish in the French capital, Don Kirkham marked himself as one of the world’s best, finishing 17th overall.

Of the 54 finishers, only two were non-European, Kirkham and Munro.

A key stepping stone to Don making the start of that Tour was his brilliant performance in the 1914 Milan-San Remo, when he finished ninth in Italy’s biggest one day race.

In 1924, Kirkham's career sadly came to an end two weeks before he had intended it to after a last attempt at winning the Warrnambool to Melbourne in 1924, when he was hit by a motorist on his bike while returning from the Victorian Cycle Traders' 100 miles road race. His injuries from the accident forced him to retire.

Kirkham continued to have a significant influence on Australian cycling in retirement by coaching one of Australia's cycling icons, Sir Hubert Opperman.

Working on his farm in Carrum, south-east of Melbourne, he become the training partner and the first coach of "Oppy".

Opperman was like a sponge as he listened to Kirkham's tales of the Tour and his advice, which led him to becoming the next Australian to ride the Tour de France in 1928.

Don has left a legacy that will live on forever.

AusBike ad
Major Partners
SantiniGWMARA GroupShimano