Rugby Velo's history dates back to the early years of road racing when it was one of the clubs which participated in the battle for the recognition and acceptance of road racing in Britain. The interest in road racing, which had been growing steadily since the first such event, the Llangollen - Wolverhampton in 1943, resulted in a number of local cyclists meeting late in 1952 at the home of Bernard Harris to discuss the possibility of forming a new club affiliated to the British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC). The Club's inaugural meeting was held at the Black Swan on 5th January 1953. Ironically, support sufficient to make the Club a viable proposition came at the same time as the National Cyclist's Union (NCU), yielding to pressure at last, had decided to sanction the running of a few road races under its auspices.
Scotsman Jimmy Grundill, a Tour of Britain competitor, was present at the early meetings and there were also members from the NCU affiliated Rugby RCC plus a contingent of BTH apprentices from Coton House. Grundill soon moved to London in his job as a pattern-maker but not before it had been decided to form Rugby Velo Club, with a club jersey based on the one he had worn in the Tour of Britain but in green and grey instead of blue and grey. The jersey proved to be dull and uninspiring and a change was soon made to red, gold and black. Further meetings subsequently took place at Coton House.
Prominent among the Club's founder members were Bernard Harris, who had shown ability in track and circuit races, and Peter Rose, who was entrusted with the organisation of the Club's first open promotion, the Dunsmore Road Race, at the end of August 1953. Local road racing enthusiast Tony Haigh undertook the secretarial duties but, wishing to remain loyal to his Coventry based Three Spires club, acted under Harris's name.
The first involvement in competition came on the severely cold morning of 1st March 1953 when Ron Woodhouse and John Marshall were second in the Lickey Velo Team Time Trial. Jim Moir and Marshall then followed with fastest junior time in the Bourne Valley Team Time Trial. In April, Woodhouse, obviously cycling fit even though mixing cycling with football, underlined his considerable potential by winning his first road race, the Stockingford Liberal Circuit over 39 miles near Nuneaton. He had two more wins during the year - in the Tour of Mercia and the Two Valleys Road Race at Bath - and came fourth in the Dunsmore race. These performances made him the Club's first Road Race Champion by a narrow margin over Bernard Harris.
Harris had been a little below his best but still scored a win in the Tour of the Malverns, leading Marshall, Woodhouse and Rose, who were all equal fourth, to a team win. He also won a stage in the Tour of Norfolk and came second in the 88 mile Bourne Valley Road Race, fifth in the 110 mile Central Grand Prix and sixth in the South Midlands Championship. Jim Moir had a third and three fourths and there were also placings in the first six for Turner and Marshall. No problems were experienced with the running of the Dunsmore Road Race which Dennis Rule of the Polhill RC team, brought by Jimmy Grundill, won. He finished well clear of the rest with team mates Grundill fouth and John Rice fifth. The Club's first evening time trial, an inter-club 2-up 40 mile with the Three Spires and Ketnor Premier clubs, took place in July, Moir and Turner winning the event with Rose and Ken Rushall second.
It had been a successful first year for the Club despite the difficulties of getting to races which often had to be reached by train or cycle but the Club was already beginning to suffer from one of the bugbears of the time - the compulsory two year period of National Service which was to remain in force until 1958. Bernard Harris was already serving in the RAF and, though he had been able to compete in a few events, his hopes of continuing racing gradually faded. He was not lost for ever to the sport and some years later made a comeback, producing some creditable performances while working in Zambia. Cyril Adams, whose son subsequntly became world judo champion, fared even worse for he was called up into the Army without even turning a pedal as a Club member.
In March 1954, Ian Steel, winner of the first Tour of Britain and the Warsaw-Berlin-Prague Race (the first memorable win in an international road race by a Briton in fifty years), accepted an invitation to become President of the Club.
Ian Turner shone during the following season. He finished second in the Wye Valley Grand Prix, third in the Tour of Mercia and sixth in the Rugby Grand Prix and was included as a late replacement in the South Midlands team for the first Quaker Oats Circuit of Britain over 993 miles. Ron Woodhouse was already in the team and they both acquitted themselves well and were lying ninth and tenth with a day to go before slipping back to tweflth (Turner) and thirteenth (Woodhouse) when they were unable to catch a breakaway on the final 147 mile stage. It was, nevertheless, a highly encouraging performance. John Benton, whose only previous placing was sixth in the De Montfort Grand Prix, sprang a surprise by winning the 80 mile Dunsmore Road Race, leading Woodhouse and Turner to a team win. Woodhouse was first over the line in the 96 mile Charnwood Road Race and had the backing of Benton and Turner for another team win, but it was Turner, who also had third place in the Ketnor Grand Prix who won the Club Road Race Championship.
Clubs were now able to affiliate to both national bodies but the Velo, with BLRC/NCU amalgamation in prospect, remained solely affiliated to the BLRC. Some members took out NCU licences in order to ride n additional road and circuit races. Harris, riding for the RAF, was first and sixth in circuit races in 1953, Woodhouse led home the bunch in fifth place in the 90 mile Tour of North Warwickshire and Brian Dawkins gained sixth place in a circuit race at Church Lawford airfield in 1954. Benton was the next to depart for National Service, electing to serve his time in the RAF.
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