The History of Harlow Cycling Club

 

1956 - 1996

Harlow Cycling Club was formed at an open meeting held on 8th June 1956 organised by Arthur Birch, a member of the Moot House Community Association as a “method of keeping youngsters off the streets and keeping them occupied with a worthwhile pastime”.

 

Present at that meeting were Mr A Birch, Miss B Birch, Mr and Mrs F Bailey, Mr J Donnelly, Mr & Mrs C Forbes, Mr & Mrs C Jessop, Mr K Howenday, Mr C Passant, Mr Y Petchey, Mr C Roberts and Mr & Mrs R Taylor.

 

The Club adopted the light and dark green livery of the Harlow Urban District Council as its racing colours and met weekly at the Glebelands Common Room in Mark Hall North.

 

The first Club 10 mile Time Trial was held on 26th August 1956 and the fastest time was Dennis Kholman who recorded 27 min 20 secs. Miss A Morris recorded a ladies record in a time of 34 min 01secs.

 

The Club’s first Dinner and Prize Presentation was held at Glebelands Common Room and tickets cost 3/6d (18p) and the whole occasion cost the princely sum of £4.5s 9d (£4.29) for the 19 guests!

 

The first AGM of the Club was held on 14th February 1957 and attended by 10 members. Arthur Birch was elected the first President of the Club. Other officials elected to the Executive Committee were A Morris, R Taylor, N Kirby, D Kholman and Miss B Birch.

 

The Club grew quickly in size, due mainly to the fact that Harlow was a growing town and the “Post War Baby Boom” was providing young men (and just a few girls) of the ideal age.

 

Club Runs were well attended and the Club began to promote time trial events. The Club’s first 10 mile Time Trial was held on a course which started in Old Harlow, went through Potter Street to turn at the horse trough at the top of Palmers Hill, Epping. The course then retraced to First Avenue to finish by St Mary-at-Latton Church.

 

By promoting Club and Open Time Trials, it quickly established itself as a progressive club in the cycling world.

 

The winner of the first Best All Rounder Competition held in the 1957 season was Cyril Hasler who beat Brian Matthews by just 0.24mph. Although Brian became the first winner of the Clubman’s Trophy, he lost out to Cyril in the darts and table tennis competitions!!

 

Gosling Stadium in Welwyn Garden City had just opened its banked track and weekly parties of members would ride to Welwyn to train and compete. At that time this track had one of the steepest bankings in the country at 30 degrees although it was one of the largest at 460 metres.

 

In 1958 the Club changed its colours to orange with purple and yellow stripes.

 

Amongst the Clubs earliest members were Ron and Kath White. Ron was the cycling correspondent of the Daily Express and one of the leading figures behind the Daily Express Tour of Britain the fore runner to the Milk Race. Between them, the Whites had formed a dream of getting built a small steeply banked cycle racing track, similar to those they had seen during their travels in Europe, where cycling is one of the principle national sports.

 

On 17th February 1959 a committee was formed from the interested local clubs and the Eastern Counties Cycling Association Jubilee and Track Fund was formed to collect money with the intention of building such a track in Harlow.

 

The original site earmarked for the track was where the Harlow Town Show Ground is now situated. The majority of the Club members, along with a huge number of club cyclists throughout Essex and beyond, were involved in the Bi Weekly Tote Draw that was conducted in the Harlow CC Club Room. On 15th October 1959 the draw was made by Beryl Burton MBE the World Champion of that year and the Ladies BAR Champion.

 

Over the years several other fund raising initiatives were introduced including the famous “I want a penny” campaign.

 

1960 saw the club promote it’s first Open events; a Ladies 10 mile Time Trial in March and a Road Race around the Town on August Bank Holiday Monday.

 

A regular event for the whole membership that began at around this time and continued until its demise was the Club’s involvement in Harlow Day and latterly the Harlow Town Show. What started off as just a small display in a shared area progressed within a few years to a whole marquee, with roller racing displays, an obstacle course and static exhibitions of the projected track development. Held over the August Bank Holiday Weekend, these displays generated a huge amount of interest and on several occasions the club was awarded the premier prize in the “Voluntary Organisation Class” of the Show.

 

The Town Show was preceded by the Harlow Carnival Parade in which the Club took part for many years, often using a display on the back of a lorry complimented by an array of cycles, both the latest models and veteran cycles loaned by John Collins of Collins of Old Harlow. Most of these veteran cycles now form part of the collection at the Harlow Cycle Museum.

 

During 1961 Ken Wall beavered away (completely unknown to the majority of the Club Members until he formally presented them to the Club at it’s Annual Dinner) to make the world’s fastest set of Racing Rollers. A complete set of 4 rollers with the very latest in quiet gearing were the envy of riders everywhere. Whereas conventional roller drums were made of sheet steel, Ken made his from wooden slats. These were turned in a lathe to be perfectly round and, as even the thickness of the paint had not missed Ken’s eye for perfection, were accurate to within part of an inch per mile. Thirty five years on, these rollers are still the bench mark for any one who wants to build “Competition Rollers”.

 

Harlow Town Centre, The High, was under construction at this time and on May 1st 1962 Kermesse Races were held in the Terminus Street Car Park. This was long before the multi story car park and office block had been dreamt of. Later in the same year, on July 15th, the Club promoted the BCF Essex Division’s Senior Road Race Championship.

 

The following winter, the Club promoted its first National Championship, The National Cyclo Cross Championship.

 

On August 2nd 1964 the club took on the biggest task attempted in its history and promoted the National Professional Road Race Championship. This was held on a course around Harlow and at the finish area Pop personality and former Milk Race Rider Jimmy Saville gave the race commentary to a huge gathering of cyclists and Jimmy Saville fans.

 

The Club was now very active and during the next 10 years continued its promotion of road races, time trials and cyclo cross events. The promotion of major events were still to the fore with the organisation of the National Schoolboys 10 mile Time Trial Championship in 1966 and an appearance on BBC’s Blue Peter in 1967 featured the Club’s Rollers. Ken Wall claims still to have his “Blue Peter Badge” presented by John Noakes and Peter Purves the shows presenters.

 

The winter of 1967 saw the Ron White promote the first of the Smirnoff Scramble Cyclo Cross races. This continued in an unbroken sequence for the next 25 years!!.

 

1968 was a busy year for the Club.

 

Under the guidance of Ken Smith, the Club promoted the National Amateur Road race Championship. Sponsored by WD & HO Wills, the cigarette manufacturer, the event was promoted on local Harlow roads, finishing on Netteswell Lane within the Town Park.

 

In the summer of 1968 Eric Beauchamp, Bob Clifton, Bob Auchterlonie, Ken Wall, Rod Scott and Cliff Nicholson rode for 12 hours on the rollers set up in Broad Walk in the Town Centre and set a Worlds record distance of 555 miles. During the same year Jimmy Saville set a new individual Hour Roller Record on our rollers and Vin Denson, at that time a continental professional team mate of Jacques Anquetil and Raphael Geminani returned to the UK and was made an Honorary Member of the Club.

 

In 1969 the Club promoted the Bantel Grand Prix Road Race for professionals with Vin Denson, sponsored by Bantel, finishing 7th.

 

In 1971 the local aerodrome at North Weald was used for a successful series of criterium races.

 

1972 saw Robert Reeves win the Essex Division Schoolboy Circuit Race Championship for the Club at Debden Airfield. The year closed with the Club again on television using the rollers on the BBC Record Breakers. This time we had help from Beryl Burton MBE World Champion again that year.

 

The Track building programme began to take off at about this time with a site being allocated on Edinburgh Way. Fund raising, planning, more fund raising, hopes and dreams began to combine and in the long hot summer of 1976 the new track was nearing completion. The track was only made possible by the refusal to quit demonstrated by Ron and Kath White and the help, support and the thousands of hours of sheer hard work of many countless friends and cyclists who turned a dream into a reality.

 

On Saturday 11th September 1976 the Grand Opening Meeting was held with Walter Winterbottom CBE the Director of the Sports Council cutting the ribbon to declare the track open. The first competitive ride was by Neil Dykes the National Junior Sprint Champion who recorded 12.5 seconds for a flying 200 metres time trial. The first crash happened on that day as well with Halesowens Trevor Gadd coming off the worse in a tussle with West Germany’s Hans Michalsky in the Open Sprint.

 

But the track was complete, and although much work needed to be done on other facilities the 197 metre 45 degree bankings was the newest and the best track in the country. The track had cost £65,000 and it is reputed that the builder Vic Watkins lost £4,000 in building the track. He was quoted in the press at the time as saying “It’s worthwhile for cycling!” Thank you Vic.

 

Once the problems of the wet winter of 1976/77 that followed the drought of 1976 had been resolved, the Club took a predominant role in track promotion over the next 10 years. 1978 saw the first “Mini Six” meeting and the Tony Gowland Master Class. Tony, Britain’s premier Six Day Rider, wanted to teach less experienced professionals how to ride small tracks before the Skol Six of 78. Naturally he came to Harlow to teach, and virtually all the club riders turned out to watch and listen.

 

Saturday 2nd June 1979 saw the first televised meeting from the track in the shape of the Debenhams Olympic International Track Meeting. Featuring Great Britain and Switzerland live on BBC Grandstand, the Swiss Team Manager the legendary Oscar Plattner asked if he could take the track back to Switzerland with him. Featured in that meeting were three future World and Olympic Champions and the memory of Steve Heffernans win in the 20kms scratch at the end of the meeting will remain with those who saw it forever. What was remarkable was the race time an incredible 22 minutes 58 seconds for the 102 laps!

 

In January 1979 the Club promoted the National Junior Cyclo Cross and the winner of the Smirnoff Scramble was Freddy DeSchacht from Belgium. Freddy was to return many times in the 1980’s to win the event a record 5 times.

 

Later that year the Club discussed changing its colours again and the selection of the distinctive white and black were selected and these colours remain as the basis of the racing costume to date.

 

The early meetings at the Harlow Track were organised by Dave Handley, but from 1980 onwards the promotions moved “in House” with Bill Tarran taking over the mantle of promoter. That year saw the first Olympic Day Track Meeting, The Rank Xerox Bastille Day, the Gilbert Lovell Memorial Meeting and the Mini Six. This set the pattern for the next 10 years with at least four open meetings being organised by the club each year. The meetings featured in the revitalised BCF National Sprinters and Points Race Leagues from 1984 until 1989.

 

But these were not the only promotions on the track. Besides the weekly Track League held on 16 weeks every year and sponsored initially by CRG Garages and then BP International, the track was used to promote the 1989 English Schools Cycling Association Championships in which Nick Hewes won the Sprint and Pursuit championships and Matthew Wall won a silver and a bronze. The track was “Home” for 13 years as the track base for the ever popular Youth Week where many future champions took their first steps in track racing.

 

The Club also ran Saturday morning Coaching Sessions with Dave Handley, the former National Track Coach. These were run for three successive years which introduced many now famous names to track racing.

 

It was during this time that the Track and Dave Handley and his assistant Norman Goodchild received the highest accolade on BBC Television. Brian Jacks, the World Champion Judo player was entered into the European Superstars Finals. He needed to learn how to ride a track. Naturally he came to Handley and Harlow. When he won the cycling at the Superstars Final, he was sure it was due to Norman and Dave Handley in their coaching.

 

Harlow CC members dominated events both at the Harlow Track and throughout the country with medals being won in many open events. Dave March, Dave LeGrys and John Arkwright were regularly in the top positions throughout the country with the highlight being Dave LeGrys’s bronze medal in the 1980, Dave Marsh and John Arkwright’s silver medal in the Tandem Sprint in 1981 and Jackie Harris’s bronze in 1981 and silver in 1983 in the Womens Sprint. In 1981, and despite having no established stars in the team, the Club won the Eastern Counties Track Championships with the team consisting of Mark Minting, Mick Westwood, Bill Tarran, Gary Edwards and Jacquie Driscoll.

 

In 1982 Jackie Harris became the first Harlow CC member to be selected to compete at a Worlds Senior Championship.

 

The Club was not restricted to promoting only on the track. A full programme of road racing was promoted every year. The Club was a founder member of the Essex Road Racing League and was instrumental in providing more racing opportunities for Juniors, third and second category riders. In 1979 the Club promoted the Mister Mark 2 day following on from the success of the previous years’ Rank Xerox 2 Day. In the Mister Mark, sponsored by the local hairdresser and cycling enthusiast Sam Shear, Ron Hewes overcame terrible weather to finish a creditable third overall.

 

In 1984 the Club promoted the Essex Division Senior and Junior Road Race Championships and again in 1989.

 

In the late 1970’s it became obvious that our pre fab clubroom, so generously donated by Cossors, would not meet the challenge of the 1980’s and beyond. Ken Wall and Norman Goodchild laboured for some years but with the help of the Harlow Council, the Harlow Recreation Trust and the Eastern Region Sports Council, the finances were found to build stage one of an ambitious project to give Harlow Cycling Stadium changing rooms, a bar and viewing gallery. The New Clubroom opened in 1982 at a cost of £82,000 and, although never extended to stages 2,3 & 4, it gave the Club a facility the envy of every one and one to be proud of.

 

Throughout the 1980’s the Smirnoff Scramble went from strength to strength with the transition to full International in 1986. This status continued until 1991 when the event was run for the last time, with the main sponsors Smirnoff being a victim of EEC Regulations forcing them out of the town.

 

In the late 1970’s a couple from Yorkshire moved to Harlow. Coming from a cycling background, Barry and Carole Hodson both joined the club and in 1976 Barry after spending some six months of preparation and two months of training set new figure for the World Hour Roller Record at the Smirnoff Scramble. This distance of 53 miles 1240 yards stood until Ron Hewes, who had trained with Hodson back in the 70’s, made a determined effort in 1988 and set the unchallenged distance of 61 miles 540 yards. This achievement was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as a Worlds Best Distance

 

In 1991, in association with General Portfolio, the club promoted the National Junior and Senior Cyclo Cross Championships. There were two remarkable points about this event. The first was that it was live on BBC Grandstand and the second main point was the weather on the day. The race, which was won in brilliant style by Chris Young, started in bright sunshine, then a gale blew, then hale and snow fell and before the end of the race sunshine returned. The race was repeated in 1992 but without the weather and David Baker from Sheffield won the race in convincing style. On both occasions, Roger Hammond easily won the Junior Championship.

 

In 1991, the Club promoted its first National Road Championship since 1968 with Rod Scott organising the BP International National 100kms Team Time Trial Championship. The winning team included Chris Boardman, the Olympic Pursuit Champion in 1992.

 

On 3rd November 1993 the site at Edinburgh Way was sold to Longmans Group for £3,000,000 and whilst the old Velodrome and clubroom closed, the replacement indoor Velodrome took a giant pace forward.

 

In 1995 the Club took a bold step in constructing a team of promising young riders, mainly juniors and first year senior riders. Sponsored by Harlow Velodrome Racing Team, the promotions arm of Harlow Cycling Stadium Limited, Impsport, the sport and leisure clothing manufacturers and AMEC, the building company selected to build the new Velodrome. The Team has rapidly built a reputation to be reckoned with and finished the year with many wins and podium places under its belt including Andy Sanders three bonze medals in the Junior road Race, Junior 30km Points Race and Junior 20km Scratch Race. Lynn Minchinton, the only lady in the team, took a gold and two silver medals at the World Masters Championships in Manchester. In 1996 the Team has been strengthened by two new members and looks set fair for the next 40 years.

 

Harlow Cycling Club has promoted events, promoted and developed riders and has taken an active part in the local and national club scene. It has provided the Chairman and General Secretary to the BCF Essex Division over the past few years, and the Chairman of the National Racing Committee. It has had representation on local and national committees almost since the club was founded.

 

Club members have officiated at races and race meetings at all levels from Club events up to and including World Championships. Several of its members have been National Champions and one a World Champion. The Club has been represented in International and National Teams the World over.

 

This is but a short history of the first 40 years of the Harlow Cycling Club. The future looks to be very exciting

 

 

Compiled by Rod Scott with assistance from Willi Tarran

 

POSTSCRIPT

1996 The Best Season Ever.

 

The Racing Team came into its own during 1996 with some outstanding performance. The highlights of these were the selection and competing of Shaun Wallace and Matt Illingworth at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in the summer.

 

At the National Championships, success followed success with Shaun winning the 1 kilometre Time Trial (the event he represented GB at the Olympics) and the 20kms Scratch Race. James Taylor won the Individual Omnium - the best all round track rider in the country and the Team were the Champions in the Team Pursuit. Add to this the silver medal in the Team Olympic Sprint, James Taylor’s Silver in the 5 mile grass track Championship, James Fields bronze medal in the Junior 20kms Scratch and Chris Ball’s Bronze in the Omnium behind James Taylor. A fantastic year!!

 

The Club celebrated it Ruby Anniversary in some style with a brilliant Celebration Dinner that brought together many members, past and present and promoted the Essex Road Racing Championship.