Wednesday, 12 March 2008

#059 - 1957 - Peace Race

Early in 1957 I received an invitation to go on the Peace Race which would start in Prague, the team was to be:
  1. Stan Brittain,
  2. Owen Blower,
  3. Dick McNeil,
  4. Karl Gough,
  5. Alan Jackson (bronze medallist in the Melbourne Olympics)
  6. Scotsman Jimmy Rae.

John Dennis was to be Manager, Alan Hodgson masseur and with me as mechanic - I wrote accepting the invite.

Writing to each rider to get particulars I found that all - apart from Stan - had signed up to ride Cyclo Mk12 gears and G.B. brakes. Stan rode Simplex 543 gear mechanism and G.B.brakes, they had either 5 or six freewheels, I insisted that they all ride 6speed. Cyclo Gear Company sent me a supply of gear parts, GB helping with a spares kit for the brakes (John Dennis was their Sales Manager at the time).

Stan had arranged a training camp in Wales and the team were to stay at a cottage owned by Eddie Soens, it was situated right off the A5 in hills near Llangollen. I went along one afternoon/evening looking over the bikes so to have all the necessary tools and spare parts to meet any mechanical problem. I knew Owen and Stan but had not met Dick McNeil, Karl Gough or Jimmy Rae, so this was a good opportunity to chat with these three and so form a good comradeship before we met at Heathrow Airport. My young nephew Alan came with me on this 180 mile journey for company - little did we know that 45 years hence he would be mechanic for English amateur teams going to Seoul Olympics and commonwealth games in Perth, Australia (then to fall out with the BCF as I did in 1971).

I knew things were going to be different because when we met up at Heathrow the bikes were stripped and ready to be put aboard the aircraft. British European Airways were now flying in to Prague, gone for us was the old Mk1 Dakota. We arrived OK in Prague, staying at a new hotel - the Continental. I did the usual job on the bikes, making all wheels interchangeable, most were on Airlite hubs, quick release of course. The Q/r spindles on these ‘Airlite’ hubs were weak, so I bought 10 sets of Campagnolo spindles from Holdsworth. Carpenter cycles turned these Campag spindles down as they were slightly thick, but we found them much stronger.

Our driver had been changed at the last minute, our old pal Fritz being taken ill but his replacement proved to be just as good. Doctor Slavic of the Czech National Team met us at the Airport, we had made great friends with him in previous years, and this friendship and help lasted for many years. His knowledge of French, German, Russian and of course English was extensive, (He was eventually to practice in the University Teaching Hospitals in Glasgow and Nottingham).

We went out training the two days before the start mostly by the side of the River Moldau taking in the road as the first stage towards Brno, I think Stan was checking the prime towns, he was to win most of them in two days time

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