1951 Tour of Britain - Part 3 - Stages 7 to 12
Credit: Daily Express Race Report 1951
Stages 1 to 6 | Extras
WHEN the starting flag dropped at 9.30 a.m. in Marine Road East, Morecambe, for the seventh stage, riders knew that they were in for the longest and toughest stretch of the whole race. They had more than 160 miles to cover, and had many tough climbs to overcome including the road across Shap Fell which rises to more than 1,300 feet.
The wind, however, favoured the riders, and the pace right from the start was fierce. Bloomfield, Clark and Buttle were the first three to break away from the field, but it was not a planned effort and behind them, chasing and catching up, were a small group which included Audemard, Steel, and Russell.
Steel had with him his team-mates Blair and Nicholls. These two men had a job to do ; they were to help Steel all they could, taking the lead as much as possible, regardless of the fact that they might wear themselves out in the process and stand no chance of finishing with the leaders. The scheme was simply to get Steel into Glasgow with as great a lead as possible. Viking were out to take the yellow jersey and the team-race lead.
Clark and Buttle kept in the lead for several miles, but Bloomfield could not keep up the tremendous speed, which seldom dropped below 25 m.p.h., and he fell back. On the climb to Shap, Buttle went into the lead and was first at the summit - the prime point - but during the hair-raising descent, when speeds over 50 m.p.h. were reached, Buttle and Clark were caught by the chasing group, and a new breakaway was formed. There were then nine men with a lead of several minutes on the field, with 120 miles to cover, and heavy rain to contend with.
The nine formed a fast-moving snake, the lead being taken by each man in turn - only the fittest could keep up that tremendous pace. They had covered the first 50 miles in less than two hours|
It was now developing into a superhuman tussle to be the first man into Scotland. Ian Greenfield from Edinburgh naturally enough wanted that honour and strove with all his Scot's courage to enter his country in triumph. But hard luck dogged him - at a crucial stage he shed his right pedal and lost several minutes in refitting it. His chance had faded - for he failed to catch up again, and it was Alec Taylor of the Gnutti team who crossed the Border first and won the much-coveted prime. Greenfield arrived four minutes down.
Then the speed began to tell. Both Buttle and Russell could not keep up and they dropped behind. Clark punctured on a piece of rough road surface. He changed a tyre, raced to catch up again - but suffered a second puncture before he had covered another mile. He was out of the hares, and became one of the hounds.
Five men left - three of them Viking riders. The speed still seemed killing - a hundred miles covered in less than four hours ! They were far ahead of their scheduled time and policemen and watchers had a shock when the five swept along-20 minutes ahead of the main bunch.
Then Derek Wellman, the only amateur rider who had attempted to keep up with the breakaway, cracked, and dropped back.
Four men left. Now the Viking riders Nicholls and Blair really came into their own. They went to the front and alternately took the lead, hoping that Steel would eventually go away on his own to win, leaving fourth man Alec Taylor behind Nicholls was the first to crack up. He had done a tremendous job of work, and still now had to pay the penalty. But it was not far from the finish, and he had a good chance of finishing ahead of the field.
Through Larkhall, Hamilton and Uddington the three sped and on into Glasgow. Along London Road it was Blair, still acting as pacemaker to Steel, who led, but as the finish came in sight Steel shot away. He was closely followed by Taylor, but the Viking Scot was over the line first. Blair was third, barely a length behind. Nicholls finished fifth ; he had been caught by Wellman, and the two rode together and sprinted for the line - the young South London amateur just getting there first.
Bedwell, still suffering from his cold, had stayed all day with the main bunch - but they arrived in Glasgow 22 minutes down on the leaders ; the Romford lad had lost his yellow jersey to the Scot Steel.
1st: IAN STEEL (Viking) 6 hrs. 22 minx. 32 secs.
2nd: Alec Taylor (Gnutti) half wheel
3rd: Stan Blair (Viking) length
Result of Hill Climb 1st: D. Buttle (Dayton) 2nd: G. Clark (I.T.P.) 3rd: K. Russell (I.T.P.)
THERE was a lot of discussion and planning between the Dayton riders before the 11 o'clock start from Glasgow. They had lost a great deal of time to the Viking men, but were determined to get back as much as possible. Thirty-nine men still remained in the field as it swept out of the suburbs of Glasgow and through Uddington, where the race proper started.
Immediately Laurent shot into the lead. He wanted to put the French team in a better position - and he was willing to try to do so by a lone effort. But Laurent was not to be left by himself for long. Scotsman Greenfield, smarting from his bad luck on the previous day, chased him. So did Clive Parker, looking after the interests of the Dayton team. Five miles was all that was needed for the two chasing men to catch up with the Frenchman - and they formed a breakaway trio.
But Bedwell also wanted to be up with the leaders. He took a sudden sprint from the field and shot away at almost fantastic speed. He, too, caught the breakaway group, and the four men started to pile on the pace in real earnest.
Over the Peebles hills and through the valleys they sped, and despite a strong headwind and intermittent chilling showers, they maintained a terrific speed. As they shot through the town of Peebles they had a lead of more than two minutes on the field.
A few riders made isolated attempts to catch the breakaway. Frenchman Audemard twice broke clear and at Kirkfield Bank, where the climb is as steep as 1 in 6 in parts, he got within half a minute of the leaders. At this point Eastwood and Addie had also broken away but within a few miles both the Frenchman and the two Scots had been caught by the field. Audemard later punctured.
Steel and his team-mates were still in the bunch when almost 100 miles had been covered. They did not seem at all worried at the lead Bedwell had gained - and by this time he was nearly 10 minutes ahead of them.
Carter Bar, where the road crosses from Scotland to England, was approaching - and still the four men kept up their pace. The long, long, uphill drag, three miles of it with stretches of 1 in 7 gradient, to the border prime did not stop them. All four men went into their lowest gears, hunched themselves over the handlebars, and began to tackle the climb with terrific zest.
Again Bedwell showed his mettle. As the four reached the halfway point of the climb, he rose out of his saddle and sprinted away on his own. There was a time bonus for the first man to the top, and Bedwell meant to win it by skilfully timing his breakaway.
He had little to worry about. At the top he had a lead of more than 25 yards over the other three, and he took a feed just after reaching the summit of the hill - and waited for Laurent, Greenfield and Parker to catch up again.
The four leaders were away and swinging down the other side of the mountain while the crowd waited expectantly for the next man. But 14 minutes passed before the main bunch crossed the line!
Still Steel and his team stayed with the bunch. It was not until Otterburn was reached, with only 25 miles of the day's racing remaining, that the Viking men made a move.
Steel broke clear and began to pile on the speed - but Frenchmen Pierre and Audemard were after him. In any case, the leaders were also keeping up their speed, and there was no hope that Steel could catch up.
Laurent was the only one of the leading four who could not hold the pace. He dropped back with less than 20 miles remaining. As the other three swept into Newcastle at a speed of nearly 40 m.p.h., it was Bedwell who flashed into the lead and won the stage from team-mate Parker.
Steel finished several minutes later, but he was still well in the lead of the whole race, and continued to wear the yellow jersey. His total time for the eight days' racing was 41 hrs. 58 mins. 10 secs. Nearest to him was Alec Taylor, 6 mins. 2 secs. in arrears. Greenfield was third and Bedwell, now 14 mins. 38 secs. down, filled fourth place. The big question now was how much could the Dayton rider make up on the Viking opponent over the hills and moors of Yorkshire in Stage 9.
1st: DAVID BEDWELL (Dayton) 6 hrs. 46 mins. 2 secs.
2nd: Clive Parker (Dayton) 2 1/2 lengths
3rd: Ian Greenfield (Scotland) 3 lengths
Result of Hill Climb 1st: A. Laurent (Fr.) 2nd: D. Bedwell (Dayton) 3rd: I. Greenfield (Scotland)
HEAVY clouds hung over Newcastle as the 39 men still in the race prepared to tackle the 88 miles to Scarborough. Despite the threatening weather conditions, a great crowd of enthusiastic people filled Cathedral Square to see them off and to give them a cheer.
As the chimes of 11 o'clock rang out, the starting flag dropped and the field were under way. Two men were almost left behind ; Wood and Fenwick had lost their machines ! The Pennine van, with their bikes on board, had not arrived at the start in time. The two men borrowed a couple of machines from the competitors' lorry and started with the field. The borrowed machines were hopelessly bad fits, but luckily for the Pennine boys their own van caught up after little more than a mile. The two worried lads quickly swopped over to their own bikes and all was well again.
Ian Steel, in his yellow jersey, thought he would surprise the field with an early attack. He jumped away from the front of the bunch and opened out a big lead. Chasing him was Buttle, who left Steel to do all the pace-making and wind-shielding. Buttle's idea was to tire the Viking man so that his own team would have a better chance.
Buttle's scheme worked, and after 3o miles Steel tired and was caught. Immediately the Dayton team attacked. Bedwell and Buttle shot into the lead together, but with them went the two Irishmen, Lennon and McCarthy, together with Howarth and Nicholls. Heavy cloud gave place to drizzling rain, and as the six men sped southward the drizzle turned into a steady downpour that soaked right through their clothing.
The chilling wet did nothing to slow them down. They flew through Ormesby and Guisborough, rapidly drawing away from the bunch behind, and began to tackle the long, tough climb up to the prime at the summit of Buck Brow. As the sextet ground their way upwards, Lennon began to tire. He could not stand the tremendous pace of the others and dropped back.
Bedwell again showed his terrific hill-climbing powers. He shot away from the group when 250 yards from the top and won the prime with ease.
The five men re-formed at the summit and made a sweep down the twisting, turning drop.
Nearly three minutes later the main bunch reached the top of the Brow. Steel was with them. Several times after that he tried to break away on his own, but each time a Dayton man would chase and catch him. When this happened Steel let himself be caught by the field again, for there was little point in his breaking away if he took with him a member of his rival team.
Across the Yorkshire moors the rain gave way to cold, heavy mist which chilled the riders to the marrow.
The breakaways, with Bedwell working like a Trojan, were still gaining slowly on the field. Snakelike, silent but for the swish of tyres on the wet road, they piled on the pressure ruthlessly and kept up a furious speed.
Behind them, Bedwell's team-mates were frustrating every effort of the Viking men to get clear and give chase. It was a grim battle fought out in swirling moorland mist. Into Ruswarp and Sneaton, and the lead had increased to five minutes. At Cloughton, with five miles to go, the breakaways still held their lead.
So into Scarborough, with the mist behind them and cheering crowds lining the route. The leaders, helped by the encouragement, put up a sprint for the finish along Royal Albert Drive, Bedwell again rocketing away to be first over the line.
It was more than four minutes before the next riders put in an appearance - then the French team, who had been the ones eventually to break clear of the bunch, swept across the line. Not until the winner had been in for 5 1/2 minutes did Steel and his Viking lads cross the line. Which meant that Bedwell, with his time bonus, had made up 6 1/2 minutes on Steel.
Steel still led on general classification, with a total time of 46 hrs. 19 mins. 31 secs. Behind him, with 46 hrs. 25 rains. 33 secs. was Alec Taylor, still riding well after his great effort over the Morecambe to Glasgow stage. Third was Bedwell. His total time so far was 46 hrs. 27 rains. 23 secs.-7 rains. 52 secs. down on Steel.
1st: DAVID BEDWELL (Dayton) 4 hrs. 16 rains. 5 secs.
2nd: Derek Buttle (Dayton) length
3rd: Karl McCarthy (Ireland) wheel
Result of Hill Climb 1st: D. Bedwell (Dayton) 2nd: F. Nicholls (Viking) 3rd: K. McCarthy (Ireland)
WHEN the riders prepared for their 125-mile journey to Nottingham, they were full of hope. Even the cold, pouring rain, which seemed to have become a feature of the whole race, did not dampen the spirits of either the racers or the thousands of spectators lining the streets ready to give them a hearty send-off.
Plans made during the rest-day were complete. The Viking team, now with a good lead, were prepared to play a tactical game. Their idea was simple - stay with the field unless either the I.T.P. or the Dayton team broke away. Watch Bedwell in particular - if he made a move to get clear, then the team must take Steel up to him.
But the Dayton team were prepared for such moves from their Viking rivals. They guessed that Vikings would adopt such a course. They therefore planned to force the pace for all they were worth, first one man of the team making a break and then another, finally letting Bedwell get clear on his own while the rest of the team covered any attempts by the Viking men to chase him. If they could repeat their successes of the previous two stages then they might easily finish the winners.
The I.T.P. men, too, were ready to better their positions. Frank Seel and Ken Jowett particularly intended to break away if they could snatch a chance. The Frenchmen, still ready to try despite being well down, were also anxious to take any chances of improving their position.
The Irish team were, perhaps, the least worried of the lot. " We know we're more than four hours in arrears in the team race," said their leader Karl McCarthy, " but that won't stop us having a go. We stand no chance of winning the race as a whole, but we will do our best to win at least one of the last three stages."
But all the scheming and planning, all the map-studying and the plotting which had gone on during the previous day was all brought to nothing. For on this day, when the race was reaching its climax, the riders missed a turning and went off course.
The race went well at first with the whole field getting down to it and keeping the pace fast. Shortly after the start, Geoff Clark began to feel the effects of an earlier knee injury. He kept on for a while, but later was forced to retire.
Jowett and Eastwood were early attackers, and after 20 miles had been covered they had broken away. As they pounded their pedals through Malton they were caught by Bevis Wood, West, Seel and the two Wilsons. The seven men formed a group which worked well together and they rapidly built up a lead.
It was shortly after this that a turning was missed and the riders went off course. And what a great shame this was. All eyes were on the expected battle between the Viking and the Dayton teams and between Steel and Bedwell in particular.
The seven men in the lead raced on, quite unaware that they were off the proper road. Behind them the rest of the field decided they would keep going.
At York the greater part of the field was re-grouped on the right road. The leaders were still ahead and riding strongly ; a time check showed that they had a lead of five minutes on the field. Eastwood and J. Wilson could not hold the pace of the breakaways, and were left behind. The remaining five men kept together and in front of the field right the way into Nottingham.
They had ridden many miles more than they should have done, but they were still fresh enough to sprint for the line. West was the first man over, beating Jowett by a few inches.
Nearly all the rest of the field followed in together and were timed in five minutes down on the leaders. The Dayton riders had stayed together to look after Buttle, who had felt off-colour that day. They were timed in three minutes down on the main bunch.
The result showed little change in the general classification, although Greenfield moved up to third place to displace Bedwell, now fourth.
1st: LEN WEST (Dayton) 5 hrs. 28 rains. 25 secs.
2nd: Ken Jowett (I.T.P.) inches
3rd: Bevis Wood (Pennine) length
Result of Hill Climb 1st: F. Seel (I.T.P.) 2nd: B. Wood (Pennine) 3rd: K. Jowett (I.T.P.)
FOR a change the sun shone brilliantly down on the 38 men still fighting out the race as they prepared to depart from Nottingham Council House Square. The sunshine did not last long, however, and as the field swept out of the city on the way to Grantham, heavy black clouds began to gather. " We're in for it again," one of the riders shouted, but the rain held off.
Bingham was passed after 10 miles with only 25 minutes on the timekeeper's watch. Elton, after 15 miles, was left behind after 43 minutes; and still the bunch kept well together.
The previous day's bad luck had necessitated a change of plan. There was little time left now, and any breakaway must be decisive and unchallengeable. Little hope of that, but it was the one thing that could alter the course of the race.
Yet when the attack did come, it came from a surprise quarter. David Addie of the Scottish team sprinted into the lead. After him went Irishman Karl McCarthy and then Frenchman Laurent. The three joined forces and began to get down to the job of forcing a lead in earnest. Funny stories may be told of "the Scotsman, the Irishman and the Frenchman," but there was nothing funny about the way these three men buckled to their task.
When they shot through crowded Grantham the three men had built up a lead of nearly three minutes on the field. The side wind had not given them any help, in fact it was making the going tough, but it didn't seem to interfere with their steady 22 miles an hour.
Out of Grantham the trio sped and started the long, agonising climb which leads up to Spittlegate aerodrome. The top of the hill was a prime, but the three men did not seem to be greatly concerned. They kept their formation nearly all the way up the climb, and Laurent had no difficulty in going over the line first.
They were more interested in staying in the lead by keeping up a fast pace than in the winning of primes, and once over the hill they again settled down to give a great show of speedy pedal-pushing. At one stretch they covered five miles in 14 minutes - averaging just over 20 m.p.h. with the wind now blowing fiercely against them.
Their rhythmical riding was paying off, for when they reached the feeding point at Fosdyke after 52 miles and took up their musettes, they had a lead of nine minutes on the bunch. But before the bunch arrived to take up their supplies, Eastwood came through on his own, three minutes up on the field.
Ian Steel was with the field as it re-formed after the feeding station, but he was not feeling like an easy ride. He was keen to get up with the leaders. Suddenly he shot away, but Alec Taylor and Pierre followed him, and within a short distance caught up. These three made a chasing breakaway trio and were after the leaders.
They caught up with the lone Eastwood, who could not hope to hold such a speed on his own, and with 20 miles to go they were within four minutes of the leading three.
The "hounds" had left their effort just a little too late, however, for as they had the leaders almost in sight, the " hares " flashed across the line. Only Addle had been unable to hold the pace right to the end. He was forced to drop back and was caught by the chasing trio. He remained with them to the finish.
The Frenchman Laurent beat Irishman McCarthy to the line for the honour of winning the stage. But the plucky Irishman smiled broadly at the result. "You see," he said, " we can do it - and we'll do better than this tomorrow."
The yellow-jerseyed Steel, who finished just after the two leaders, was still easily in the lead on general classification, and he and his Viking clubmates now had a 23-minute lead over the Dayton team.
So ended the last but one stage. There was no doubt that the last day's tactics would be simple to follow. The Viking men would not need to do any attacking, they had only to hold their position and cover other teams' attacks.
1st: ANDRE LAURENT (France) 5 hrs. 43 mins. 55 secs.
2nd: Karl McCarthy (Ireland) length
3rd: Edmond Pierre (France) 5.44.40
Result of Hill Climb 1st: A. Laurent (France) 2nd: D. Addie (Scotland) 3rd: K. McCarthy (Ireland)
THE last day! 1,300 miles behind them ; a little more than 100 miles remaining ; the 38 riders still in the race prepared to start outside the Town Hall at Norwich. Ian Steel again donned the yellow jersey, presented to him by the Mayor of Norwich. Several thousand people crowded the streets to watch the start—some were even perched precariously on a nearby roof in order to get a better view.
The flag dropped, the field began to move forward, and the last stage was under way. But as the riders moved off, the Dayton team stopped and dismounted. On the instructions of their sponsor, they withdrew from the race.
Their withdrawal made no difference to the others in the race, and into the teeth of a strong wind they wound their way out of the city to the main road to London, 115 miles away.
And in the middle of the bunch beat a Scottish heart which was filled with determination. Young Dave Addie, who had tried so hard the day before to win a stage, was set on having another go to win on this last stage. But if Addie's heart beat a little faster, the hearts of the Frenchmen were not so full, for their last bottle of French wine - they had brought 14 bottles with them - had gone. They had finished it off the night before.
Still grouped in one bunch, the field swept through Hethersett after 512 miles had been covered. Four miles on, Addie took a chance and shot away from the field on his own. It was a tremendous sprint, and he rapidly drew away from the bunch. His lone effort lasted only four miles ; he was caught by the field again.
A mile farther on Frenchman Garner had a go. He pounded his pedals with tremendous gusto and pelted from the bunch. On his tail was Irishman Joe Lennon. Then, lo and behold ! Addie shot out of the bunch again and jumped into position behind the Irishman.
Away they went together, working in perfect combination, and they built up a fine lead.
Sixty miles covered and the three were still well in the lead when they took up food at Six Mile Bottom. They held a lead of more than five minutes. At Royston, after 82 miles, their lead had increased to o minutes. Past Baldock, their lead had increased still more to 13 minutes.
On the up-and-down last few miles the three breakaways could not quite hold their lead, but they were in no danger of being caught. As they neared the outskirts of London they were still eight minutes up on the main bunch of riders.
Out of that bunch, however, Ian Steel, although knowing that none of the trio in front could displace him from the overall lead, nevertheless jumped away and sprinted into the lead on his own. He began to catch up with the flying trio and at Mill Hill he had got to within five minutes of them.
The three leaders were still pounding along the last few miles from Mill Hill to Hampstead when the Irishman suffered a set-back. He skidded on the wet road and fell from his opening up wounds received in an earlier crash. But nothing daunted, mounted and kept going It was a great effort.
Into Westheath Road they turned and started up the final hill to Whitestone Pond. Still together they climbed, but just before the finishing line Gamier sprinted and messed over a mere length in front of Lennon. Addie, still smiling despite being again beaten, finished third a length behind the Irishman. Four minutes and 36 seconds later, there was a tremendous cheer as Steel, his yellow jersey now soaked through and covered with mud, came pounding up the hill on his own. He finished in fourth place, and he led the first of the main bunch by 14 seconds.
Steel was the overall winner. His total time of 63 hrs. 9 mins. 53 secs. for the 1,400-odd miles was best by more than six minutes. A garland was placed round his shoulders, and amid tumultuous applause he was chaired away - to a bath and change, " It's been great fun," was his comment.
1st: EUGENE GARNIER (France) 5 hrs. 29 rains. 41 secs.
2nd: Joseph Lennon (Ireland) length
3rd: David Addie (Scotland) length