Wednesday, 12 March 2008

#043 - 1954 - Tour of Ireland - Part 2

The first day of the “Tour of Eire" started at 10am from Dublin going via Dundalk to Athlone - quite a long stage, I cannot remember any notable instance, our team finishing in a large leading group.

We had the “Tour de France” Aspro ambulance leading the race, very impressive. Manning this ambulance was a doctor on his first bike race. One of the Scottish riders touched a wheel and came down injuring himself, the doctor took one look at the rider and turned to get his well stocked medical kit , when he turned back to the rider, he had got on his bike but was going the wrong way, we - Derek Robison and I - put him on the right road. The doctor was astonished, we told him when this happened again to do a tempory assessment of the injury then tell the rider to come round after the finish of the stage for any major treatment. As we said to the doctor, a bike rider cannot afford to loose any time, extreme injuries being obviously a different matter.

After the first stage finish a large furniture van tipped all our bags on the market square, we collected these then we had to see the accommodation officer to find out where we were staying. Things are a bit different now with bags in your room all labelled and your accommodation listed in the “race bible”. The evening meal was a comunable affair in Athlone town hall.

The second stage was again a long one, going from Athlone to Sligo to Bunduran. On passing Bulbrennan mountain where Keats is buried, the road is dead straight and slightly down hill, on looking at the speedometer I was astonished to see the bunch was travelling at over 50 mph. Just then a bee hit me in the left eye, so had to stop quickly as could not see out of either eye. I was not wearing helmet or goggles it was such a glorious day and we wanted to get brown (helmets were then not compulsory as now). The stage finished on the seafront at Bundoran in Donegal, it is a lovely place with white sands and only a few hotels (I wonder what it is like now).

We did the usual massage and bike checks etc then the evening meal, during the last two days we had made the acquaintance of the race mechanics “Jimmy and Jack” who owned the Rutland Cycle Co in Dublin. On the race they were general mechanics seemingly doing all repairs for most of the riders except our team. That night we went to see them at their quarters, they had got that many bikes to do we stopped and helped. Although I had a cycle shop of my own I learnt more about racing bikes and quick repair of same then and now. This learning zone was to hold good fortune when I was asked to go to the “Peace race” the following year.

My memory does not allow me to remember any of the stage finishes, some of the riders I do remember are - Johnny Pound, Bill Baty, Stan Brittain, Bernard Pusey, Tony Hoar, Vin Denson, Bob Maitland, “Dickie Bowes, Jack Ryan, ‘Sore bones’ Ford, Shay Elliot, and Willy Long. Having not kept any finishing sheets or a diary my memory is not good, although our team was leading the club competion as apposed to National Teams. Dennis Weston was our leading rider with Bill Henshaw and Fred Gascoigne well up. Stage three took us from Bunduran to Tuam then on to Sligo to finish at Galway. The weather was still perfect, more like midsummer than Spring. Wild pansies and primroses adorned the hedgerows - it was truly marvellous.

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