BRITAIN'S N.C.U. amateurs, national champion Ted Gerrard and Yorkshireman Brian Haskell, finished third and fourth in the 1,010-mile, 12-stage Tour of Egypt which finished in Cairo last Saturday. Gerrard held this position from the seventh stage onwards to run out 9 min. 3 sec. behind Belgian winner Van Meenen, who led the race almost from the start, and just 18 sec. down on the second Belgian. Van Canter. Gerrard won three stages of the race. Haskell, whose final time deficit on Van Meenen was 14 min. 1 sec., won the time trial mid-way through the event. Our third man, John Perks, of Birmingham, was 19th 1 hr. 31 min. 56 sec. in arrears, after repeated mechanical and physical trouble.
The Britishers' challenge to the Belgian pair, amateurs of major standing in their own country, who had undergone specialized preparation for the race, was indeed praiseworthy. None of our team had raced since the end of the 1953 season, yet Gerrard and Haskell were able to hold off and better the attacks of the Danes and French including riders of the calibre of Hans Andresen, second in the Prague-Berlin-Warsaw race last year, and Robert Hoorelbecke, amateur champion of France.
Signs that, despite little preparation, both Gerrard and Haskell might show up well in the Tour of Egypt came as early as the first stage, when they finished equal fourth behind race winner Van Meenen. They were not highly placed on the second stage, but the third day saw the start proper of the run of quality riding that was to see them placed third and fourth in the event at the Cairo finish, for Gerrard scored the first of his three wins on this stage and Haskell was again fourth.
Following the fifth stage Gerrard was fourth in general classification, 7 min. 5 sec. behind Van Meenen. The sixth day's racing saw Gerrard pulling back 1 min. 18 sec. over the Belgian by finishing in 10th position behind stage winner Andresen, who beat Hoorelbecke and Egyptian El Sayed in the sprint. Perks was 15th and Haskell was 19th, the latter dropping back a place in general classification, from seventh to eighth, 12 min. 16 sec. down.
Britain's best day of the race so far as it had then progressed came on the seventh stage, of which fuller details are now available to supplement the earlier results.
Cheering crowds lined the road from Cairo to Heliopolis where the start proper for the run on asphalt roads to Suez was made. Haskell and the Danish team forced a break on the first hill of the race, but it was short-lived. Then Perks got clear, and Gerrard left the main bunch, riding alone and eventually catching the leading bunch which included Perks, and was joined also by Haskell. The Belgians and Danes were still in the lagging field. By the time Suez was reached only Gerrard, Ameline of France and Egypt's A. Mohamad remained in the lead, and Gerrard won the sprint started by Ameline for his third stage victory. Before a small but enthusiastic crowd from the British colony Haskell finished fourth, and Perks, riding in with the Libyan team and still suffering from the saddle soreness that had bothered him from the second day, seventh. The British team were invited to tea at the home of the British Consul.
Roads from the fourth stage to the eighth were of asphalt, and although " corrugated " in places, were infinitely better than the dust tracks of the first three days. The eighth stage itself provided another change in that it was over undulating roads. After numerous short-lived breaks, the real racing started with 25 km. to go, and at 10 kin. to go came the decisive break. Gerrard missed it trying to shake off the Danes, but Haskell was there with Van Meenen and Van Canter. The Belgian pair dropped him with a kilometre to go, but he finished third only 4 sec. down. Gerrard was sixth, 1 min. 19 sec. down. Perks again bad mechanical trouble and finished 14th, 9 min. down. Gerrard had by then moved up third in general classification only 4 min. 6 sec. behind Van Meenen. Haskell came up into sixth place, and Perks jumped one place to 21st.
It was with a first-class chance in the Tour that Gerrard and Haskell went off on the 50-mile time trial that comprised the ninth day's racing from Port Said to Ismailia a week last Monday. They were freely tipped to win this section, and they did not disappoint. Racing along the road beside the Suez Canal, flat at first then slightly undulating towards the end, Haskell caught Belgian Van Schil who had started 4 min, ahead and almost caught Frenchman Ameline, who started 8 min. in front, to win in 1 hr. 48 min. 49 sec., with Gerrard second in 1.49.48, and Hoorelbecke (France). third, in 1.50.7. Perks was 17th in 2.2.7. Haskell now jumped to fourth place in general classification where he stayed to the end.
The 10th stage was Denmark's day. Rasmussen scored his country's second stage win of the race by beating J. Naitchian, of the Lebanese team, into second place. It was Lebanon's first entry into the placings. Third was another Dane, Ravn, Rasmussen and Naitchian got away and stayed together to the end for victory over the 48 miles from Ismailia to Zagazig by 7 min. 57 sec Gerrard, Haskell and Perks all came in equal eighth. 9 min. 41 sec. down, but the margin of Rasmussen's win had no effect on leading general classification.
The 11th stage from Zagazig to Tanta (35 miles) was through country reminiscent of England's Fen district. Pattern of the day was as ever, Britain watching Belgium, and there were no decisive breakaways, despite a determined effort from Van Meenen and Haskell, with Gerrard coming up. Van Meenen took a 150-yard lead near the finish and held it to the line to win by 23 sec. from Andresen and Gerrard, who fought out the bunch sprint for respective second and third placings. Perks was 12th and Haskell 15th in the same time as Andresen.
The country through which passed the penultimate stage from Tanta to Alexandria (78 miles) on Thursday, again retained a Fenlike appearance, and the asphalt roads - which degenerate into dirt tracks in villages and towns and become surfaced again on leaving - were still characteristic. But a shower of rain lasting 20 min. (the first the Britishers had had in Egypt) made the roads rather greasy, and the event's biggest crash occurred when Haskell skidded, fell and brought half the field down at half distance. No serious damage resulted.
Much in evidence on this stage was the Belgian-Danish combination that had gradually formed as our riders continued to be unmoved from the general classification positions and leading day-by-day efforts. We were backed in turn by Rumania and France. With 15 km. to go Van Meenen and Andresen got clear, and as Andresen was no threat to the general classification, Ravn and Rasmussen were allowed to go with them. The British' team had little alternative to letting the break go in favour of protecting its third and fourth placings. But shortly before the finish Haskell got clear, while Gerrard blocked the bunch, Haskell finishing third. Gerrard and Perks finished at the head of the main field.
Following a rest day on Friday, the last stage of the race, and. at 137 miles the longest, on Saturday saw Van Meenen consolidating his overall race victory with a win in 5 hr. 40 min. 2 sec, over the Danes Rasmussen and Ravn. Perks was our best man, in 8th place, Haskell and Gerrard finishing 10th and 12th. But their third and fourth race placings were safe, for none of the leaders of the final day, apart from Van Meenen already in an unassailable position, were in striking distance.
Final General Classification
1 Rent Van Meenen, Belgium, 45 hr 14 min 17 sec
2 Van Canter Belgium 45.23.02
3 E. C. Gerrard, Great Britain, 45.23.20
4 B. Haskell, Great Britain; 45.28.18
5 Ravn, Denmark, 45.29.11
6 Rasmussen., Denmark, 45.33.35
7 Hoorelbecke, France, 45.33.35
8 Van Schil, Belgium, 45.35.49
9 Ameline, France, 45.38.0
10 Nicolescu, Rumania, 45.41.13, 10