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The sweet smell of our cycling efforts was not always welcome in the church!
4:50pm Friday 18th October 2013 in News
In the second of a series of
articles in the
run-up to the Grand Depart, Keighley cycling
O’DWYER reflects on the sport’s local past
As I explained in my last article, cycling clubs all over Britain were divided when Percy Stallard formed a new club, Wolverhampton Racing Club in 1942 and put the first race on – an ‘open’ road race, Wolverhampton to Llangollen.
The establishment – i.e. the NCU (National Cyclist Union) – was appalled and promptly banned him and all his team for life.
Undaunted, Stallard pressed on, the BLRC was formed, and from this small beginning, British riders were soon competing on the continent. And with riders like Ian Steel, Geoff Clark (Bradford) and later Brian Robinson (Mirfield), they won the grudging respect of the continentals.
When I started riding with St Christopher’s in 1957, things were starting to change, due to the ownership of motor cars and motorcycles. Membership of cycling clubs was dropping, and the NCU was making overtures to the BLRC to form one body to govern the sport – the BCF (British Cycling Federation). However, this did nothing to calm the local rivalry. Keighley and Skipton formed the KCIA (Keighley and Craven Interclub Association), which still exists today promoting events on local roads.
These races and events began in February with the Skipton & Back on a restricted gear of 72in. Then came reliability rides – 70 miles in five hours, then 100 miles in eight hours – over Fleet Moss in February!
Clubs took turns to promote the season’s events, starting with 25-mile trials, then moving on to 50 miles as the days lengthened. Ten-mile time trials began on Wednesday evenings.
During the season, clubs incorporated their own championships, and the Interclub Association held its own championships at these distances, culminating in the Best All Rounder competition. A rider’s times at ten, 25 and 50 miles were averaged out, and the rider with the fastest aggregate was the BAR champion.
This title was fought over by the top men in the association from March to September. Tony Cutler (Skipton), Pat Kelly (St Christopher’s), Colin Hesketh (Keighley Road Club), not to mention Fred Norton, Bob Wise, Lewis Whittaker, John Brooks and Kenny Roberts.
The time trials took place on Sunday mornings – 25 miles at 7am, 50 miles at 6am. These started at the junction at Cross Hills and finished at Kildwick straight, via Broughton, Gargrave, Long Preston, depending on the distance.
These events had a unifying effect, and after the last man finished we would all ride back to Keighley in a big group.
St Christopher’s was a Catholic club, and we were expected to attend mass before going home. We were usually late, and the church would be packed with worshippers in their best Sunday clothes. When they heard us troop in (we had metal plates on our shoes), they began to flinch and fidget in their pews.
It was the practice to rub foul-smelling embrocation on our legs (a mixture of Wintergreen, olive oil and ‘Curacho’). When we sidled into a pew and got warm, this aroma, mixed with perspiration, was to say the least unpleasant and made us unpopular!
That was the local racing scene.
On the continent, the time trial is known as ‘Contre la Montre’ – the race of truth. A very fitting description to my introduction to the sport. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.. and these riders were as tough as you could wish to meet!