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Rugby Velo

Club History (2)

1955 was memorable for a prestige-enhancing win for Woodhouse in the 76 mile Welsh National Trophy race at Barmouth, with Ian Turner, also riding well, taking the hill prime and sixth place. Woodhouse was also second in the Gordano Valley Road Race, third in the 105 mile Cotswold Gateway Road Race, fourth in the St. John's Grand Prix and sixth in the Stadium Road Race and he regained the Club Championship from Turner who departed for RAF service before the end of the season.

Ron Woodhouse collecting the Welsh National Trophy

The distance of the Dunsmore race was increased to 100 miles and renamed the Dunsmore Century. Independant riders were included for the first time and the quality of the field was greatly improved. The Independant category had been established under international rules to allow riders to compete for a limited period against professionals or amateurs to enable them to assess their prospectsof becoming full professionals. At the end of the period they were required to decide whether to become professionals or revert to amateur status but this was not always strictly enforced. The BLRC road racing enthusiasts saw the establishment of a thriving independant category as a step towards developing riders capable of holding their own in the Continental classics but the time when a genuine full professional category could be established in the UK was a long way off and independants tended to retain their status indefinitely. Independant rider Ken Jowett (Viking Cycles) beat Tour of Britain winner Ken Russell to win the Dunsmore Century in the fast time of 4-9-10.

Woodhouse was left with the responsibilty of representing the Club in competition in 1956 and was reasonably successful in doing so, winning the Rushden Criterium and finishing fourth in the Swindon 2-day and fifth in the Northern 2-day. Problems were experienced with the Dunsmore Century for the NCU/RTTC faction had decided to wage war against the intermingling of independants and amateurs by declaring "non-amateur" any amateur who rode against independants. The Club refused to be deterred though it meant a much reduced field and ran the Dunsmore, with Jim Moir as organiser, as planned. Woodhouse broke away with international rider Bob Maitland fairly early in the race and they were never caught. The sprint to the line was won by Maitland whose complaints of the mesmerising effect of Woodhouse's fluorescent socks testified that the Velo man had done his full share at the front. Dutch rider Jan van der Linde competed in the race but retired after a spill. The attitude of the RTTC appears all the more ludicrous these days when sponsored club amateurs receive cash assistance and professionals and amateurs are allowed to compete against each other.

Prospects for the following year (1957) looked bleak indeed for Woodhouse had left to serve in the Merchant Navy. Years later, married and living in Maghull, he made a comeback riding for a Liverpool club but failed to reach his previous high standard. Ifan Wiliams also went into the Merchant Navy, Jim Moir took up a business appointment in Iraq and Brian Dawkins departed to the Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. Fortunately, John Benton returned from National Service and recommenced racing, gaining fourth place in the Forest Circuit race and fifth in the 84 mile Chronicle and Echo race at Northampton but he later retired from the sport and emigrated to Canada. Keith Hawkesley began to show better form, winning the Stockingford Circuit race and finishing third in the Loughborough Australian Pursuit Road Race against independants and he backed up Turner, who had also returned from the RAF, and Benton for a team win in the Warwickshire Senior Road Race Championship which finished in an intense electrical storm. The Dunsmore Century race saw two French riders competing but both Romain Gregoire and Guy Perillard had the misfortune to puncture. Gregoire went on to win a kermesse at Sutton Bonnington. In general it was an undistinguished season.

A boost to fortunes which were beginning to fade came with the decision of 17-year-old George Halls to join the Club together with fellow Harborian Bruce Thorne. Halls had finished third in the NCU East Midlands Junior Championship and was keen to extend his road racing activities. Success came soon for he won his first event, the Arbury Road Race, on 16th March and there followed three more wins, two seconds and four thirds plus another second place, riding for his second claim club, Welland Valley Wheelers, in the NCU National Junior Road Race Championship at Coventry. Holding a clear lead with another rider, he had the misfortune to puncture in sight of the line and had to coast home on a flat tyre. Bruce Thorne and Robert Burt backed up Halls for several team wins and Burt gained third place in the Warwickshire Junior Road Race Championship. Halls finished the season as a first category rider having won his first senior race, the Ketnor Autumn Road Race only days after his eighteenth birthday. He finished second amateur (seventh overall) in the Wellingborough Grand Prix the following Sunday and then took third place in the Rushden St Johnís Grand Prix a week later.

With Halls establishing himself in the senior ranks 1959 proved to be a good year for the Club. He had two wins - in the Austells Grand Prix and the 105 mile Nuneaton Grand Prix, the latter in a disputed finish with Gil Taylor following which the Birmingham Premier rider was disqualified. He also achieved a number of other high placings and placings in the first six were also achieved by Burt, Thorne, David Daynes, Keith Johnson, Richard Cottingham and Richard Plank. The Dunsmore Century was won by Elswick Hopper rider Frank Clements in the record time of 4-0-42.

In 1959 the BLRC and NCU had finally merged to form the British Cycling Federation. Though they had won their campaign for road racing, the outcome was not welcomed by many road racing enthusiasts who felt that this branch of the sport would have been better served if the BLRC were to have been recognised as the controlling body for road races in the same way as the RTTC for time trials. It can only be a matter of conjecture as to whether or not this would have been the case but racing standards in the UK compared with those in other countries remain generally no higher than they were many years ago.

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