Tuesday, 11 March 2008

#034 - 1952 - Tour of Wicklow

1952 dawned as Olympic year; this is when a lot pack up and new ones start. We rode in quite a few selection events, Eric Thompson narrowly missing track selection. Another mate of ours George Newberry, “made” the pursuit team finishing 3rd in Helsinki. We decided to ride in events held in Eire and in June entered the “Tour of Wicklow” and the Dublin-Cavan-Dublin, plus an event in Phoenix Park. The riders were Tim Thomas, John Scholes, Bill Henshaw, Tom Crowther, Alan Prentice and myself. I did manage to get some long training rides in for these events, which was quite a change for me. I was supposed only to ride in the “Tour Wicklow” but as it transpired I stayed for the lot.

“Tour of Wicklow” was on the Sunday and in the pouring rain we departed from Dun Laoghaire. The start was at Blessington and we arrived a little later than we ought. We booked a room with a bath so we could luxuriate at the finish. Looking out the window I noted that all the riders in the event were lined up on the Square outside, to my surprise they had started, we dashed downstairs grabbed our bikes whereupon the judges made us go round a big tree first- the reason for which defeated us! We did a “pursuit team” to catch up, and it was a blessing in disguise we were late, there had been a massive pile-up on a bad bend and by the time we had caught up there were bodies everywhere. (I particularly remember rounding a blind bend in top gear and faced with a “house side” of a hill in the wrong gear, we climbed this hill with Blessington Lake in the mist to our right). Then we seemed to descend and at the foot of the hill we turned sharp left along a 4 mile, sandy rough path. Riders gradually went away from me - I counted six - I was then caught by Alan Prentice who was suddenly seen to be balancing on a big boulder on his bottom bracket, he got off to examine the damage, I waited for him and at the same time we were caught by Tim Thomas, he was on his first tour - what an eye opener, Alan Prentice sprinted off and left us who had stopped to assist him. I was furious at this and told Tim to go and catch him and knock him off! Two miles further on, we caught and dropped Alan, we then caught Joe McCormack who was in a very sad state, we gave him some food and he rode along with us.

At the end of the sandy stretch there was a left turn and a steep step to the main road. The organisers had stationed three big Irishmen to lift each rider bodily round the corner - bike and all, what a race. Bill was third, Tim, Joe and I 6th, 7th and eighth.Tim and I were in the bath together after Bill, the water was hot but black, we wouldn’t let Alan in and he was to suffer a cold bath. We rode home in the rain to Mrs Ryan’s where we had our usual large hot meal. This was the evening prior to return home on the 9am boat next morning, but I again won that much at “Pontoon” that I stayed for the long event on the Wednesday.

The race started in Phoenix Park on the Wednesday morning, we lined up walking behind the band, being honoured guests, however the starter seemed to jump from the crowd firing his gun, we were jammed behind the band and had another race to catch the leaders. 140 started so we had quite a task. The plan was (or rather Toms) was to endeavour to get John Scholes away on his own, he was a good time triallist, and, as he was going in the Army the following week, and Tom wanted a good result for him so he could be in the Army Cycling Corps. The first half of the race to Cavan, which is just south of Northern Ireland, was uneventful although I did have a go with Joe Joe McCormack but we were caught after few miles. When we were 50 odd miles from the finish all our crowd rode to the front and we managed after a few attempts to get John Scholes away, he seemed to go so slowly and of course on those long straight roads we never thought he would make it, meanwhile we were blocking like mad and in a quite spell I went looking for Tim Thomas to help, I seemed to be going back for ever, just as I was thinking he had packed I espied him, he was sitting up on top of the bars eating bananas, he shouted “if this is road racing I’m all for it”. I soon read him the facts of life and had him up at the front “blocking” with us. All seemed to be going well when some 10 mls from Dublin on those long straight roads we could see John, we were “shot” having been blocking for seemingly miles, we had nothing left and he was caught. Still we had tried, Kit O’Rourke won the race, Shay Elliot was there on an old bike and Willy Long, Jack Ryan and Jim McQuaid all riding fixed gear. We all became really good mates.

Friday night saw us riding in the Grand Prix of Dublin in Phoenix Park, we were now classed as Internationals and we again got caught behind the band and had to chase to catch the group, after several laps Bill and I jumped away on the back straight. We had quite a lead with one Irish lad on a old bike sitting in, I said to Bill on the last lap we ought to make him work, ‘he’s no good’ said Bill ‘he’s had it’, what a mistake we both made because on the last time up ‘Khyber Pass’ this lad jumped us, I managed to get his wheel but he dropped me just yards from the line, I thought I would be second but almost on the line I was passed by about 8O riders. The young lad was none other than “Shay” Elliot riding and winning his first event; never underestimate anyone especially in Eire.

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