Wednesday, 12 March 2008

#054 - 1955 - Peace Race - Finish

After a day or two in Warsaw where we were entertained by the British Embassy, we packed all our bags and bikes and early one morning we were coached to the Airport, we were surprised to see we were travelling on the same MK1 Dakota made under licence in Russia. No luggage was weighed and as well as us there were the Belgians and French and all the souvenirs and prizes we had won. The plane tried to take off on the concrete runway but could not make it. The pilot then took the plane to a far corner and, bumping on the grass to get up and over the runway, finally managed to take off. On landing at Berlin a tyre burst, good job we had stopped, we were in the Airport about an hour before we left for Brussels, everyone on the plane was scared stiff. Two of our team who were in the RAF were airsick!! We left Brussels on a Sabena aircraft it seemed like heaven.

Arriving at London we had hell of a job with the customs owing to our having the gold wrist watches, luckily about a week before Wolverhampton Football Club were in from Moscow where they had been given similar gold watches but which had been impounded by customs. This matter had been raised in Parliament and the team had been allowed their watches. We announced this precedent and after much wrangling we were allowed to keep ours. I had swapped a Campag front and rear for a new Praktica single lens reflex camera fitted with F2 lens Ziess. No one had seen one of these in England and I had a job to understand it. We also had Zorki and Fed cameras, these were copies of the famous 35mm Leica , made under licence in Russia.

My personal observations of this race were - On the better side I had made umpteen friends but how hard it was on the mechanics, in fact I vowed not to go on it again. How we had to have two hammers to knock the dents out of rims as the roads in parts were made from seabed boulders, this road was especially bad in Poland just before the stadium finish, the Germans called these roads cat head shape boulders. A pal of mine Derek Robinson (we were on the ill fated “Tour of Eire” together) made a tool to make oval wheels round again, it was like a micrometer and was really efficient. He later also made me a bike stand that fitted on top of my toolbox, it was so good that Eddy Merck’s mechanic wanted to buy it – the reason being that our toolbox was totally portable and with it’s collapsible stand could go in our team car boot, (I still have it!) but their large stand and box had to be sent on the night before.

After we had been back in England a few weeks the NCU sent me an invite to go as Team Manager to the “Tour of Nine Provinces” in Belgium, but with such a back log of work in the shop to catch up with I had to refuse. 12 years was to pass before I was asked to manage a Team again - this was to be the 1967 “Circuit Sarthe” in France. This is quite another eventful story which will appear shortly.

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