1949 Brighton to Glasgow Part 3

The Story of The Six - told by Charles Fearnley

1949_Brighton_Glas-six007wSTAGE TWO  -  London to Wolverhampton

FOR the B.L.R.C. in London on Monday, August 1, 1949, all roads lead to the "Cockpit," Hyde Park.. This is nearer the Serpentine than last year. Whatever may be said about the glamour of the start at Brighton, London has all the atmosphere of the real departure place. Every rider knows or is related to someone in London, and these folk are all there with their friends in their hundreds on this cloudy, threatening day. To me the scene resembles nothing so much as the departure platform of a huge (cycling) terminus.

His Worshipful the Mayor of the City of Westminster, Col J. Allan Mulholland, M.B.E., M.C., J.P., is the "guard" and is ready to wave the flag but before he does so, Sid Field, star of the hit show "Harvey," accompanied by his leading lady, Miss Athene Seyler, steps forward to lend colour to the event by putting the traditional yellow jersey of the victor on young George Lander. Amid hilarity (for Sid Field is a comedian off as well as on the stage) this ceremony is performed, a bouquet is daintily presented to Miss Seyler by pretty Joyce Peakall, 17-year-old daughter of the event organiser, then the Mayor gives his blessing, the flag waves, and the “train" is off to Wolverhampton via Bignells Corner, South Mimms.

Bignells, "Cuisine" Corner for many a hundred time-trialist in his Sunday "mourning," is a scene as busy as any Tour de France station, the main midday meal being the No. 1 item on a somewhat feverish agenda. Food is the life line of the racing man, hunger being far more disastrous to his chances of success than a puncture. Indeed, one unfortunate rider, by no means a newcomer to the game, broke into unrestrained tears when he found he was unable to have his meal due to a miscalculation in his arrangements. But as the time flies round to 1.30 p.m., the timekeeper Eric Hickman, watch in hand, gives the signal, and off we are once more, all, that is, but three non-starters.

The A5 road is fast, the pace fast and furious. A few stragglers come back " as the pace temporarily " kills " them. The first newsy incident happens when riding through Dunstable, an onlooker, who obviously had celebrated his Bank Holiday quite unwisely and far too well, decided that he was seeing things he did not believe. " No," he tells himself. "I mush be very drunk, 'cozh that one shyclist looksh like nearly a hundred of 'em." So he - crosses the road anticipating the “solitary cyclist" will avoid him. By an amazing piece of skill over 90 riders do succeed in avoiding this drunken nuisance, just one rider hitting him amidships.

The first 20 miles passes in 45 minutes, averaging nearly 27 m.p.h. Alfred Brown, a Scot from the Comet R.C., halts to change a tyre. At 35 miles Marcel Baguet, French rider, is off with a puncture, while in front, one of his team-mates rides ahead of the field with two Creamfield with jerseys. Suddenly Peter Lynch, Rotrax Cycles, finds himself upside down on the grass verge, but is unhurt and fights his way back to the field by dint of hard plowing on his pedals. Later in the week, this lad is going to show what power lies in his slight physique.
More rain has fallen and washed up from behind at 45 miles floats Garnier after a io-mile struggle against air, space and time. As becomes one of his ability, he goes right by the field to the vanguard.
Ken Rhodes, Hatelcy Cycles, is off, wheel in hand. Team-mate Joe Spragg makes an exchange of wheels, unselfishly makes the repair and catches the field.

Then at 66 miles the field is split in two main bunches for a time. Big Don Gillings, Harrison Cycles, pauses with chain trouble but is soon back. Harold Binfield is seen on his own making a bid to catch the leaders from the main bunch.
So little incidents happen to relieve the monotony of a fast ride over what may be said to be uninteresting country.
But what of that leading bunch some 3 minutes ahead of the peloton? Let's step on it and see who they are. Even at 5o m.p.h. we
Seem to take an interminable time to catch them. - At last they are sighted. Just specks down a long slope in the road. Even their jerseys are colourless at this distance. Some we recognise. Others we conjecture upon until their numbers are discernible. Then a frantic page turning of the programme. The driver reads out the numbers. Conversation in the car gees like this.
Forty-eight - Ken Russell, R.A.F. chap; 51 - Dennis Jaggard, Ealing, trying to make a come-back; 32 - Harold Bloomfield, riding for Jack Taylor Cycles now. Delayed by a puncture, yesterday. 'Saw him near East Grinstead yesterday teaching a kid how to change a tyre; 36 - Johnnie Raine - he'll either win or ride himself into the ground; 8 - Jack Williams - elbows out knees in - doesn't need a number; 9 - Len Hook, Harrison Cycles, got fit on a i,oco-mile " holiday " coupla weeks back; 12 - Johnny Welch, Hateley Cycles, cheeky chappie who is always on the attack; 22 - Clive Parker - he's fit enough to win this Six.

1949_Brighton_Glas-six008wTen miles from the finish, with the crowds lining the approaches of Wolverhampton, the rain has stopped. Our car has been out of the race and now we find that Williams, Parker, Hook, Jaugard, Russell, Raine, Bloomfield, and Alan Morgan, Birmingham Premier, are the fugitives. Had we made a mistake over Johnny Welch? Only he can tell us. But this octet fight it out to a bitter finish on a hard white ribbon of roadway lined so closely by enthusiastic spectators who had waited hours to see the entry of these wheeling gladiators, that there was insufficient room to fight it out in a fair sprint. Yet the result is a fair one with 19-year-old Parker beating Russell and Bloomfield into second and third places respectively. (Later the judges penalised the Jack Taylor rider three minutes, so he is omitted from the following list of fastest finishers.)

Only 14 leaders are listed as no fewer than 37 follow them in bunch and are given an identical time. Note that Lander, Wade and Graves finish together well up the list. They are a second only behind Paris on this stage. The I.T.P. team are not yet in the picture.
We have not yet found that rainbow; at least not the bow. Wc- find the rain. And how it welcomes us in Wolverhampton!

Pos.Name Club/Sponsor h.m.s.
I. C. Parker Paris Cycles (Record) 5.1.34
2. K. Russell Bradford R.C.C. (Am.) 5.1 34
3. L. Hook Harrison Cycles 5.1 34
4. J. Raine Viking Cycles 5.1 34
5. D. Jaggard Ealing C.C. (Ind.) 5.1 34
6. A. Morgan Brum Premier (Am.) 5.1 34
7. J. Williams Harrison Cycles 5.1 34
8, G. Kessock, Paris Cycles ; 9, G. Lander, Polhill R.C. (Am.), 5.2.16 ; 10, L. Wade : 11. G. Grave-. Polhill R.C. (Am.) , 5.2.43 12, E. Garnier, Franne; 13, G. Clark, I.T.P. 14, N. Jones, Wolverhampton R.C.C., 5.3.51.
Note. - Sixty-nine riders were inside the previous record time for this stage, of 5 hp. 17 mins 36 sees. by Geoff. Clark.