1952 Tour of Britain - Part 3
Credit: Daily Express 1952 Race Programme
Route - Stages 8 to 14
GUIDED by previous experience, the officials tightened the schedule for this stage to allow for a winning average of 24 miles an hour. But even this tightening proved insufficient. Neither the tens of thousands gathered in Glasgow's George Square, nor the officials, had any idea of the phenomenal speeds which were to be attained that day.
For three miles the colourful field wound its slow and majestic way to the outskirts of the city. As the red, white and black flag waved, and the race proper started, the riders shot forward at more than 30 miles an hour.
Two riders were left behind temporarily. Belgian Van Den Dooren and Londoner Johnson were brought down when their wheels skidded on tram-lines. Van Den Dooren suffered a gash on his back, but quickly resumed his saddle. Johnson, however, re-opened the wounds he had received in a previous race, yet he, too, caught up with the field just out of Glasgow.
Taking advantage of good conditions, the peloton sped through Muirhead and Cumbernauld, maintaining a furious pace. Rider after rider tried desperately to break away, but even on the uphill stretches the speed rarely dropped to less than 25 miles an hour, and every attempt was foiled.
Through Blackford, after 43 miles, Stan Jones, Christison, Greenfield and Hawkins forced a slight lead. They put on a sprint in an effort to break well clear, but the field would have none of it. Within half a mile, the whole group had re-formed.
Only one man dropped back. First day's winner Johnny Brackstone, who had started this stage against the advice of the medical officer, was steadily losing ground. A high temperature and slight cramp were having their effects.
Beyond Aberuthven began the long, steep ascent of Forteviot Hill - the day's prime point. In a solid mass the field tackled the lower slopes. Slowly, Ian Greenfield and Peter Procter began to pull away in front. Hard behind them was Bob Maitland.
It was a bitter struggle to the summit. Inch by inch, Greenfield drew ahead. Over the final 25 yards, he found enough extra push to force himself into a lead of five lengths, with Procter managing to beat Maitland across for second place.
Beyond the summit, the three leaders eased slightly to regain breath. Behind them the field also slowed.
Gordon Thomas needed no second invitation. He took the chance and sped away in a devastating sprint. Before the field as a whole had time to recover, he had built up a lead of almost a hundred yards. Fraser, Maitland, Newman, Steel, Greenfield, Meade, Marr, Robinson and Scales gave chase, and within a couple of miles these 10 men had joined together and were riding like demons.
Ken Russell also shot away, hoping to regain the Yellow Jersey. He was followed by Mather. After a 15-mile struggle, the pair joined forces with the leaders, just as Meade unshipped a chain and was forced to drop back. The remaining 11 sped through Invergowrie, still at their phenomenal speed, and headed for Dundee.
At Invergowrie, Scales felt his front tyre softening. He gave no sign of his trouble, and prayed that it would hold out till the finish, less than five miles away.
His luck held - just. But Robinson was not so fortunate. As the finishing line came in sight, Robinson's gear suddenly broke down, wrapping itself round the back wheel. He was forced to stop - with less than 600 yards to go.
Along the broad Esplanade flashed the remaining men. Steel made a colossal effort to get there first, but he had begun his final sprint just a little too soon ; he was forced to slow down and four riders, headed by Scales, swept round him.
Scales was past the finishing flag first, followed with few inches to spare by Thomas and Russell, whose third-place bonus gave him back the Maillot Jaune.
Again the riders had beaten their schedule. In fact, only Johnny Brackstone finished at the scheduled time. Feeling very ill, Johnny crossed the line more than half an hour in arrears, and was put to bed under the supervision of the medical officer.
1st L. SCALES (Sun) 85 miles (136.8 kms) in 3.11.29 (Average 26.6 mph / 42.9 kph)
2nd G. THOMAS (B.S.A.) at 1/2 length
3rd K. RUSSELL (Ellis-Briggs) at 1/2 wheel
THE citizens of Dundee gave the Tour a fitting send-off. In their thousands, they thronged the Esplanade to send up a great cheer as stocky, tousle-haired Ken Russell donned his Yellow Jersey, and took his place at the head of the field for the move off.
The strong wind, which had helped the riders into Dundee, still blew from the west, dead into their faces as they headed back towards Perth. This was to be the tough man's day.
Within 15 miles of the start, a group of nine men had formed ahead of the field. Howarth, Wood and Michaux were the first to break clear. Forging into the fierce wind, they opened up a gap after less than 10 miles had been covered.
Ian Steel, who delights in tough conditions, shot away from the bunch and chased after them. But two of the B.S.A. team, delegated to watch every move made by the Scot, jumped in behind, and used the tall, speeding Steel as a windshield. Two Manchester riders, Mather and Clarke, also took advantage of the chance to take pace. Along with Don Wilson, they fell in behind.
It was a five-mile chase before the two groups made contact. The men who were to contest the finishing sprint were together after only 15 miles had been covered.
Only one of the nine men failed to hold the pace. Mather decided it would be easier travelling with the main bunch, and he dropped back.
Beyond Aberargie, began the stiff ascent to the prime. Clarke forced himself upwards with tremendous thrusts, finally bursting past Procter to gain the points and the prize. The descent into Cowdenbeath and Torrieburn was of little help, the wind countering any advantage that the downhill stretches might offer.
Once over Kincardine Bridge, heading westwards to Edinburgh, the octet began to put on speed. Faster and faster they raced, through Winchburgh where the cheering crowds were delighted to see their favourite Ian Steel still in the lead.
All along the route, mighty shouts of ' Ian ! Ian ! Ian ! ' rent the air, and Ian gave of his best to please them and answer their encouragement with even greater bursts of speed.
It seemed almost impossible that the first Tour winner could hold his place at the front at such a rate. No man, one felt, could spend so much time forcing the pace without tiring.
But as the eight men swung into Maybury Road for the final sprint, Steel was still hard at it. It was a thrilling finish, Steel beating off challenge after challenge over the last few hundred yards. Rightuntil the line the result was in doubt - as a final roar came from the huge crowd, Ian flung his machine over the line inches ahead of Don Wilson. Bevis Wood just managed to pip Michaux for third place, and Procter, still game and ready to scrap to the last, finished fifth along with Howarth. Clarke and Newman took seventh and eighth places respectively.
A minute and 20 seconds passed before the next riders crossed the line, led by Stan Jones. As a result, Steel moved up to seventh place on general classification, his minute bonus for the stage win giving him nearly a 2-minute advantage over many of his challengers.
Russell, who had finished with the second group, still held the Yellow Jersey, and Bellamy, who finished with the same group as Russell, remained his nearest challenger.
Johnny Brackstone was not in the race that day. The medical officer withdrew him. In the morning, Johnny had been running a higher temperature and was suffering from influenza.
The last German rider in the race gave up during the stage. Schwaiger, who had put up a long, lone struggle, could not stand the race into the wind, and retired. Johnson, too, was forced to call it a day. The wounds he re-opened in the Glasgow tumble became too painful, he stuck it out grimly for many miles, then could go no farther. Another casualty was John Pound - after a fall he required slight hospital treatment. and was out of the race.
1st: I. STEEL (Viking) 91.5 miles (147.3 kms) in 3.59.33 (Average 22.9 mph / 36.9)
2nd : D. WILSON (Yorkshire) at inches
3rd : B. WOOD (Pennine) at inches
FORTY-NINE of the original 78 riders lined up in Edinburgh's Murcat Cross to fight out the 112 miles to Newcastle. Almost exactly at half distance, 64 miles, was Carter Bar, the border between Scotland and England - and the last hill prime of the whole race.
In the King of the Mountains competition, two men, Greenfield and Procter, were separated by only one point. Whichever of these two was first over the line, provided they were in the first five, would be King of the Mountains for the whole race.
Many of the riders and officials believed that the Second Tour of Britain would be decided on this stage. ' This is the last really tough stage', said one manager. ' Whoever goes into the lead after today should be able to hold on to his position right through to London.'
The flag dropped. The 49 moved slowly off through the streets to the start proper five miles from the centre of the city. As the de-neutralisation flag waved, a surge went through the field - the most important stage was under way.
Bad luck again came the way of the Irish team. Within a mile of the start proper, Con Carr, tough, never-say-die leader of the team, crashed heavily. He fractured a bone in his hand and received some deep scalp wounds. He was out of the race, a bitterly disappointed man.
Attack followed attack at the front of the field, but it was not until Galashiels, after 33 miles, that a breakaway attempt succeeded. Maitland, Yeaman and Scales jumped into the lead, and rapidly drew away from the bunch.
Almost at the same moment, Wood snapped a gear cable ; team-mate Fenwick stopped and waited to help him in re-catching the field. Johnny Welch dropped back to help his team-mate Blair, who was also in difficulties with his gear. All the while the trio in front were gaining ground.
After 10 miles, they had built up a lead of 1 1/2 minutes. Another 10 miles, and the lead had increased to 3 1/2 minutes. There came the beginning of the gruelling climb to the summit of Carter Bar. Half-way up, they were 4 1/2 minutes ahead, and climbing strongly.
Both Maitland and Scales knew that if they could hold the lead, one of them would become the wearer of the Yellow Jersey. Moreover, they both knew that the new wearer would be decided on the line - for they were so close on general classification that the lead would be decided by time bonus. Whoever crossed the finishing line in front of the other would go into the lead.
At the summit, Yeaman ground his way to the front, found sufficient reserves of energy to sprint the last few yards and win the last prime prize. Once over, the trio re-formed and got down to the job of holding and increasing their lead.
Behind them, Procter and Greenfield were continuing their battle for fourth place over Carter Bar. The field were content to let them fight it out between themselves. As they approached the summit, it was Procter who summoned up enough strength to heave himself over the line first. He scored the required two points for an overall best total. Procter was King of the Mountains, 1952•
By this time, the flying trio in front had increased their lead still more. At Belsay, after 97 miles, they were 5 1/2 minutes up. Over the final miles, they hardly slackened speed, and despite frantic efforts on the part of those behind, this lead was reduced by only half a minute at the finish.
What a finish this was ! The three men flashed towards the line, first one then the other getting in front. It was Scales who managed it in the end, just gaining the verdict over Yeaman, who was given a rousing reception - it was his home town.
Scales's win earned him the Yellow Jersey. Maitland, who filled third place on the stage, moved up into second place on general classification.
Russell, who finished with a large bunch of 34 riders five minutes after the leaders, dropped down to third place. Bellamy was now fourth.
1st L. SCALES (Sun) 112 miles (180.2 kms) in 4.32.27 (Average 24.7 mph / 39.7 kph)
2nd N. YEAMAN (Pennine) at a length
3rd R. MAITLAND (B.S.A.) at 1/2 length
AS Les Scales, the Sun Cycles rider, donned the Yellow Jersey for the first time outside Newcastle's Town Hall, there was one question in every rider's mind. Would Scales prove the prophets right, and hold his lead - or would Russell come out with another superlative effort and retrieve his crown ? Or was it still possible, they wondered, even at this late stage to outwit the 'heads' and themselves become the new leaders ?
The stage started slowly. For once there was no immediate sprint as the race on ' flag fluttered from the chief marshal's car. Instead, the compact field began gradually to increase the pace and for the first few miles serenity reigned.
Then, without warning, Steel and Welch, the two Viking riders, sprinted away. In a matter of seconds, their lead had increased to a hundred yards. Two hundred yards - a quarter of a mile.
Behind them there was almost pandemonium. The B.S.A. team formed the spearhead of the chase. All five went to the front of the bunch and forced the pace. For mile after mile the fugitive Vikings held their slender lead. Try as they might, they could not increase it. Eventually, Steel turned to Welch, shrugged his shoulders, grinned and eased. They could not get away from a pack headed by the five B.S.A. men, that was obvious. They dropped back and rejoined the bunch.
As they did so, Stan Jones touched the kerb and burst his tyre. He dropped back to make a rapid change.
Through Stockton, a stray dog ran in front of the field. Greenfield swerved to avoid it ; Thomas swerved to avoid Greenfield. The Sun rider got through - the B.S.A. man crashed. Procter and Newman stopped to help Thomas and assist him in regaining the field after repairs.
Four B.S.A. men behind the bunch ! Here, if ever, was the signal for an attack. Ken Russell needed no second invitation. Like a streak, he shot away from the field. On his tail went Van Den Dooren, Pottier, Fenwick and Mather.
As the tough climb of Buck Brow commenced, Russell put on even greater pressure. One by one his 'tail' dropped off. As he neared the summit he was on his own.
Behind, Steel waited with the bunch. Maitland, the only B.S.A. rider at hand, was watching him. For a second, Maitland's attention was diverted. Steel noticed it, was away in a flash.
Rapidly he began to overhaul Russell's dropped tail. One by one he caught, passed and dropped Mather, Van Den Dooren, Pottier and then Fenwick.
Minute by minute, Russell's figure grew larger. As the summit of Scaling Dam was neared, Steel, with Fenwick still holding on, caught up. Russell gave Steel a big grin ; Steel replied with a pat on the back. The trio got down to increasing their lead.
Fenwick could not hold the pace of the other two, and he dropped back. Russell and Steel together made a magnificent pair, the giant Scot and the diminutive Yorkshireman flew along, at one point covering two miles in just three minutes.
Into crowd-packed Scarborough they raced wheel to wheel. In a last, superb sprint for the line, Russell pipped Steel by a matter of inches. It was more than five minutes before the main bunch arrived, in which were Maitland and Scales. Russell had regained his Yellow Jersey, and Steel moved up to sixth place on general classification.
Bellamy arrived shortly after the main group - and collapsed on the line. The tough Romford lad had crashed with less than four miles to go. He finished on a team-mate's machine. Later it was discovered that he had ridden those last four miles with one of his spinal bones fractured. It was the end of the race for him. He was the second wearer of the Yellow Jersey to be forced to retire.
1st K. RUSSELL (Ellis-Briggs) 88 miles (141.6 kms) in 3.12.45 (Average 27.4 mph / 44.1 kph)
2nd I. STEEL (Viking)at inches
3rd T. FENWICK (Pennine)3.16.34
THE day of rest, which had in reality been a day of final preparations, had at least allowed the riders to miss the second worst day of weather in the whole Tour. The heavy rain clouds which had rolled over Scarborough during the ' day off ' had thinned, and the sun peeped through as the Mayor presented the Yellow Jersey to Russell.
It was on this Scarborough to Nottingham stage in the First Tour of Britain that the field had run off course. Officials and route-markers made certain that the same thing would not happen on this race. Route-markers had been out early, and the notorious sharp corner in Norton, where last year's mistake had been made, was covered with direction signs ; great crowds of people gathered there to guide the competitors round and make sure there was no slip.
First riders round this corner were Procter, Christison, D. Wilson, Fenwick and Pottier. They had broken clear after 11 miles had been covered, and at this point, after 23 miles, they had built up a lead of almost 1 1/2 minutes.
Behind them, Clarke and O'Reilly had formed a chasing pair, just a little ahead of the main bunch. They could not hold their position, and within a matter of six miles had been absorbed by the field.
In the pack, Russell, a new Yellow Jersey on his back, was content to take things easily, watching his two nearest challengers, Maitland and Scales. Not one of the riders in the leading group could oust him from his position, and he was quite prepared to stay in the comparative ease and calm of the main bunch.
At York, the five leaders were four minutes ahead, with 42 miles covered. The wind, blowing from the side, proved troublesome, but did not slow down the field to any great extent.
Between Selby and Thorne, the leaders raced over a level crossing just before the gates closed. Behind, the field were forced to stop - but they dismounted and climbed over the gates or raced across the pedestrian crossing carrying their machines. Michaux and Steel were the first two over. Steel raced away on his own.
Behind him, Mather and Newman swung on their machines and gave chase. They caught Steel and in a matter of minutes these three had left the main bunch far behind.
It was a tough assignment catching the leading quintet. Of these, Christison had been unable to keep up and dropped back. He was caught and passed by the chasing trio. Through Bawtry, the ' hares ' had their lead reduced to two minutes by the ' hounds'. Just before 011erton, the two groups joined forces.
There began a fierce struggle between the seven men. One after another they tried to break clear and storm into Nottingham on their own. Newman was the most successful. He sprinted away, held a lead of almost ioo yards for some five minutes, but was then caught once more. Steel tried again and again to get clear, but each time was baulked by one of the B.S.A. men, Newman or Procter.
Into Nottingham's recreation ground they swung. Steel made a last desperate effort and dashed into the lead. With the finish almost in sight, he was several lengths in the lead. One last corner remained to be negotiated. Steel's speed was so great that he could not quite get round. He swung up on to the grass banking. Before he could regain the road, the six others had shot past.
Steel was still not to be discouraged. In a devastating burst he overhauled three men, and finished third behind Fenwick and Pottier.
A full minute passed before the next riders appeared. A group of 29 men, headed by Van Den Dooren sprinted for the line. In the group were the four race leaders, Russell, Scales, Maitland and Greenfield. By finishing all together, there was no chance of any change in the overall race leadership.
The London team suffered a set-back on this stage. Ron Cooper, chasing hard behind the field in an endeavour to catch up after puncturing, came into collision with a lorry and crashed heavily. He was taken to hospital for treatment.
1st T. FENWICK (Pennine) 125 miles (201.2 kms) in 4.38.03 (Average 27 mph / 43.4 kph)
2nd J. POTTIER (Viking) at inches
3rd I. STEEL (Viking) at 1 1/2 lengths
WITH less than a dozen miles covered, Newman and Bodson broke clear of the field. It was a surprise move that no one had expected. Welch, Phillips, Jones, Cook and Bougeois, weaving and plunging at the front of the pack, broke clear and formed a chasing group. It seemed possible that this might prove the decisive break of the day, for the pace was unrelenting. In Grantham the two original leaders were still at the front, but the five chasing men were just behind them. Bodson dropped back, was passed by the chasing five. Newman, on his own, decided he would be better off in company, and slowed.
The newly-formed sextet's lead over the field was slight, but minute by minute the gap widened.
Behind, Michaux, Grundill, Thomas and Yeaman had formed an efficient chasing party. Farther back eight men, including Russell, Maitland, Steel and Greenfield, formed a third forward bunch.
The main bunch, worried by the absence of so many riders, began to force the pace. And just before Donington, after 44 miles had been covered, the whole field had re-formed into one big group.
Not for long, however. Within five minutes, Thomas, Jones, Pottier and Phillips shot into the lead. At Fosdyke, after 52 miles, they held a lead of 20 seconds. Across the gently undulating country between Fosdyke and Sutton Bridge, the lead increased to more than two minutes. At King's Lynn, after 76 miles, they were 32 minutes up.
Yeaman, Christison and Welch then formed a chasing group, hoping to catch up. They left the main field well behind, but made little impression on the leaders. Ten miles beyond King's Lynn they were still three minutes down - but were a full minute ahead of the field.
At Fakenham they had made up a minute on the leaders; the main bunch by then were more than six minutes in arrears. Two Scotsmen, Meade and Grundill, decided that this was too much, and themselves formed a two-man breakaway.
Once the riders in the main pack realised just how far ahead the leading four men were, they began to pile on really heavy pressure. Russell and Scales knew that if Thomas, so far in front, won the stage and kept his lead, he would then be in a good position to make a strong challenge for overall race leadership.
This thought lent wings to their wheels. The pack sped along and overhauled the two Scots - just as Welch, Yeaman and Christison caught up with Thomas, Jones, Pottier and Phillips a few miles out of Norwich.
There was no chance at all of the pack catching them. They knew the finish would be fought out between themselves. All seven began a swift-moving, spectacular jockeying for position, a struggle which went on right to within a 100 yards of the finishing line. Then began the all-out sprint. Thomas left his effort until the last second, then produced a sprint which carried him over the line just in front of team-mate Jones. So close was the finish that all following five men were classed equal second with Jones.
Breathlessly the huge crowd waited for the next men in. Was it possible that the ' heads ' had allowed this breakaway to get too much in advance ?
They had not so long to wait as at first expected. The field had put on such a fierce pace over the final miles that they came into sight barely three minutes later. In the group were all the leading riders. Russell's jersey was safe, and his nearest challengers were still Scales and Maitland.
Unluckiest rider on this stage was O'Reilly. Barely out of Nottingham he had snapped a gear cable and changed machines. Within 200 yards he had swerved to avoid a child cyclist, crashed into a road island - and changed machines. He travelled only another few hundred yards before his crank axle snapped - and he had once more to change machines, this time back to his own. He carried on to the finish, but arrived more than half an hour after the leaders.
1st G. THOMAS (B.S.A.) 123 miles (197.9 kms) in 5.04.28 (Average 24.2 mph / 39 kph)
A. JONES (B.S.A.), J. POTTIER (Viking), J. WELCH (Viking), T. PHILLIPS (Romford), J. CHRISTISON (R.A.F.), N. YEAMAN (Pennine) at inches
FORTY-THREE riders were left in the race ; 43 men to fight out the last day ; 43 men of whom many had yet to win a prize but who still hoped, even at this late hour, to achieve at least one placing. In front of them all as they prepared to move off from Norwich City Hall was the stocky, intense Ken Russell in his Yellow Jersey. Was it possible that this lone rider could fight off the big guns of the highly organised teams right through to the end of the 1,470 miles ?
A watery sun gleamed fitfully above the city as the field set off. As the race was de-neutralised at the city's outskirts Russell dropped back from his place at the head of the procession and fell in with the bunch. His tactics for the last stage were simple - to stay with the pack unless one of his close challengers attacked - then he too would attack in turn.
After 15 miles a sudden streak of blue heralded the first attempt at a breakaway. Don Wilson was off. Swiftly he opened a gap. Then the purple figure of a Viking rider shot away after him - Blair was on the chase.
The two joined forces after five miles, and began to work together. The bunch speeded up. After 26 miles Blair and Wilson had been returned to the fold.
Immediately, Aldridge and Newman jumped away. Beyond Thetford they had built up a minute's lead. Through Newmarket they were still in the lead.
Behind them, Thomas, Maitland and Scales forced themselves into the lead. Russell, scenting danger, shot away with them. After 52 miles they had caught the Aldridge-Newman combination - but here were three B.S.A. men against Russell. For a tense quarter of an hour it seemed that this was to be Russell's Waterloo. Then the pack came up with a rush, and the whole field re-formed.
Ten more miles of jockeying and jumping. Jones suddenly streaked away from the front and left the field behind.
At Royston he was more than three minutes up and the pack was becoming restive. Maitland and Scales again sprinted from the front, made another attempt to leave Russell behind. But again the lone fighter met their challenge and shot away with them. Belgian Michaux also flashed away to join them.
At Baldock, with 83 miles covered, the four men were only 1 1/2, minutes behind Jones - and 3 minutes up on the pack. Before Stevenage at 88 miles had been reached, the four men caught Jones, who joined with them.
Then luck turned against the lone wolf. His pedal crank began to work loose. From his position at the back of the group he tried frantically to carry out running repairs on the move, but without success. Then he felt his tyre softening.
Russell studied his antagonists. Neither Maitland nor Scales would help him, that was certain. Jones was Maitland's team-mate. He could not be expected to help. There remained Michaux.
The Belgian had set his heart on winning the stage. But would he help Russell ? Ken took the chance. He spoke no Flemish, knew no more than a dozen words of French. But he tried his luck. 'Donnez moi votre bicycle', he muttered, pointing to the loose crank and the softening tyre. Michaux looked, grinned, jumped off his machine, threw it over to Russell, and got down to repairing Russell's machine himself. Russell jumped on the Belgian's machine, and in a matter of seconds was back with the others.
Then Russell discovered that the Belgian's machine had developed a cracked front-fork blade. Would it hold for the final 30 miles ? It was touch and go every inch of the way. Russell dare not attack for fear the fork would break. He had to be content to sit in behind the others - satisfactory enough in its way, but not satisfying to Russell, itching, to attack.
The fork held. Through hundreds of thousands of cheering spectators he clung desperately to the backs of the other three over the final miles. He swept into Alexandra Palace - and made a terrific effort over the final yards to finish ten lengths down on Scales at the line.
Scales had won the last stage, had earned a two-minute bonus. But Russell was the overall winner - by exactly three minutes after nearly 1,500 miles of racing.
1st L. SCALES (Sun) 119 miles (191.5 kms) in 4.53.27 (Average 24.3 mph / 39.2 kph)
2nd K. RUSSELL (Ellis-Briggs) at 10 lengths
3rd R. MAITLAND (B.S.A.) at 5 lengths