2 weeks prior to us leaving, Johnny Dennis had to pull out unexpectedly and a new team manager had to be found, I was hoping that I would be chosen but Ernie Clements was appointed, Tommy Egglestone who was with Watford Football Club at the time accepting the appointment as masseur, (he would eventually move to Sheffield Wednesday (Masseur) and then on to Everton), Tom was a very good man and to enter his massage room was a tonic in its self. The team was the now familiar
- Stan Brittain,
- Owen Blower,
- Brian Haskell,
- John Pound,
- Bill Bradley
- Gill Taylor,
I had written each rider in turn to ascertain brakes, freewheel and pedal type etc.
I was able to obtain Fiamme rims from Tabucchi Tyre Co, from British Hub Co Ltd “Airlite” Q/R hubs, Coventry Swaging gave us the spokes and nipples. Handlebar bar tape was donated by Ron Kitching and tubular tyres with the new No.2 and No.3 type as well as the old No.5. were given by the Dunlop Rubber Company. We had 60 tyres in all, in fact in error we had collected tyres that were meant to be donated for the whole of season 1958. To pack these tyres I bought a strong case with a good lock.
It was a lovely spring 1958, a lot of warm sun, I was able to sit outside and build 9 pair of these wheels. I delivered the wheels personally to the riders and so at the same time was able to re-acquaint myself with them. I knew them all apart from Gill Taylor and he was very easy to get along with. Came the great day of leaving Heathrow, I had checked all the bags and bikes and saw them on the plane, handing the receipt labels to Ernie Clements. We flew to Warsaw Airport, where the race was starting that year. We sorted the bikes and baggage out only to find out that Ernie had lost the receipt tags. That was only the first cockup, somehow we had lost two bags as well and I shot off to find them, and did eventually get this sorted out. I think Ernie thought I was taking over and reminded me that he was in charge, so I left him to sort out the bags and bikes to be put on the coach. He succeeded in losing one bike and 2 cases between the airport and hotel – I was detailed to go and find them, which I did! (the 2 cases had been delivered to the wrong room and the bike was out side the lift).
We stopped in the magnificent Hotel Warsaw and were all together on the 2nd floor, each floor had two maids who would attend to any sewing and ironing, and they were a great help. We had landed late at Warsaw and after the preliminaries of meeting several of the race committee and our Polish Interpreter, (who by now was a good friend to past riders - only Ernie, Tom and Gill were new to him). Dinner was ready on our arrival where we again met a lot of old friends. Several race officials came to see me officially, and I should have referred and introduced them to Ernie, but I was happy to bask in the glory of recognition and I was still jealous that I had not been chosen for team manager! although I was able to answer all their queries.
By my way of thinking, I was experienced in this work, this being my third Peace Race. I had also been on the Tour of Eire 3 times and to the Tour Sweden. As far as I was aware, Ernie had been Manager on the Tour of Scotland in 1957. His riding days were far more widely ranging and successful than mine, but being a top class rider does not always make a good official. This is the first time I have thought of this in this manner - in hindsight
After dinner I donned overalls then down to my mechanics room. I was able to brief Ernie on the initial routine and that the interpreter would take him to the race Headquarters where he would be given frame and jersey numbers and spending money to the equivalent of about £4 a day whilst we were in Poland. He would also be given a race ‘bible’ and also some souvenirs, I also advised him that he would be expected to sort out the food menu for the whole fortnight and it was better to do this with the aid of the riders.
He (Ernie) enjoyed the “Bonhomie” with the other managers and officials, socialising and drinking too much, (some do). He forgot the menus even though his interpreter tried to tell him, and did them himself in haste.. The error was compounded when, after 3 days of the same fare, the English riders found that Ernie had ordered the same food every day, that included steak for dinner, - ideal, but not to have every day. To alter the menus is very difficult as food has to be ordered well in advance, consequently we were not the best thought of team on the race. Nor were we very happy. Good job the masseur who knew his job and kept the lads moral up by his very quick wit and his tales with the football teams. He actually played for Derby County in 1948, and Derby being FA cup winners in 1946/7 season had invites to play from all over Europe and had been to Warsaw.