Tuesday, 11 March 2008

#026 British League of Racing Cyclists

Following the death of dad we all had to concentrate more on the business as opposed to “bike racing”, we still kept up with the gym though, forming quite a good basket ball team. Early that year good friends, the Derby Mercury, had their general meeting to discuss leaving the National Cyclists Union (N.C.U.) and formed in 1942 by Percy Stallard of Wolverhampton. Percy advised them joining the British League of Racing Cyclists, (B.L.R.C.) this latter league had been allocated "Massed Start" racing as was then called, Percy wanted to get away from races on closed circuits and race on the open roads. To me this was ideal and at that time very radical, unfortunately the "old stagers" of the N.C.U and R.T.T.C (Road Time Trial Concil) threw out the whole idea, so Percy went along with his Wolverhampton Wheeler colleagues and ran a terrific event from Llaangollen to Wolverhampton. Many cycling historians can write about these events far better than I so I'll leave that historic event to others although I must congratulate Percy on his great vision and wisdom in foreseeing the great improvement in cycle racing.

After a pep talk by a Nottingham B.L.R.C. member the Derby Mercury joined the 'League'. However a small band of track racing cyclists were in the "Mercury" . The N.C.U in their old fashioned wisdom had banned any rider who joined the 'League' to ride the track, this left riders like future Commonwealth Games Champion Eric Thompson, in a vacuum so luckily Eric joined our club bringing with him a complete girls team including that Mercury stalwart Betty Wilkins and Beryl Wightman and Ethel and Tom Crowther, also joining our club from Ilkeston R.C. came Derek Robinson and a young Bill Henshall and Marion Robinson. At that time there were well in excess of 130 in the club.

Derby Mercury went from strength to strength in the ‘League’; they had a terrific team in Ted Upton, Jack Ashworth, "Flog" Hazlehurst, Claude Broadhust, Joe "Buco" Buxton (a legend) Jake Seal, Dave Orford and Derek Wilkins. And many more of course. These riders won many classics promoted by the 'League' who by now had semi-pros in their ranks; this culminated in the "Tour of Britain" sponsored by the national newspaper the "Daily Express" What terrific vision Percy Stallard had and what a pity that the usual ills that attend our sport are still there - not enough people with vision, although I realise in this day and age that traffic is a big problem.

From 1948 the B.L.R.C. has sent a team to the Peace Race i.e. Warsaw - Berlin - Prague. Percy going on the events as team manager, this event was not recognised until 1955 by the Union Cyclist International (U.C.I.) or the N.C.U. The League also had invites to the Tour of Mexico, this also was banned by the U.C.I but thank God that these two cycling bodies allowed these marvellous races a licence eventually.

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